Members of Clare County Council on Monday rezoned lands for a €400 million data centre on the outskirts of Ennis in spite of local residents' concerns.
The planned data centre – one million sq ft – will be the largest in the west of Ireland since the ill-fated 200,000sq ft data centre planned by Apple for Athenry.
Clare County Council has been advancing the project over the past year to facilitate the planning application to be lodged by Dublin-based firm Art Data Centres Ltd.
In varying their county development plan, the councillors rezoned a 51 hectare (126-acre) site on the Tulla Road leading out of Ennis off the M18 as an enterprise zone that will be data centre-specific.
Ahead of the councillors adopting the rezoning at the council's March meeting, the council's director of economic development, Liam Conneally, described the project as "a game-changer" for Ennis and Clare.
Mr Conneally was part of a council delegation that visited a Facebook data centre location at Lulea, Sweden, last year as part of the council's preparatory work.
Cllr Tom McNamara (FF) was also part of that delegation and said that if the data centre project can be delivered for Ennis and Clare “it will be the same as having a goldmine. The spin-off from this for Ennis and Clare will be unbelievable.”
According to Mr Conneally, the planned data centre will provide 1,000 construction jobs over five years and lead to 200 permanent data centre jobs.
Mr Conneally said the project would also lead to an additional 150 indirect jobs.
The council received 17 submissions in relation to its proposed rezoning.
One of those was from a 40-strong local residents group who stated that the rezoning doesn’t have regard to the numbers of homes that would be adversely impacted by the proposed development.
The residents’ group stated they were strongly objecting to the rezoning and that the council should investigate alternative “brown-field” sites that would be more suitable. Other submissions stated that the developer of the centre had not put forward “any package” to property owners to address all the negative impacts the project will cause.
In his written response to the residents' specific concerns, the council's chief executive, Pat Dowling, stated the residents can raise their concerns at planning application stage.
The rezoning of the lands now allows the application be lodged with An Bord Pleanála for the data centre.