Crumbs for Athenry as it waves goodbye to Apple pie

Cantillon: Enterprise Ireland approves €4.5m food innovation hub for Galway town

 ‘Athenry for Apple’ badge on supporter outside the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins Courts

‘Athenry for Apple’ badge on supporter outside the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The news for Athenry that it has been approved by Enterprise Ireland as the location of a new €4.5 million food innovation hub may well taste more bitter than sweet for the majority of the town’s residents.

The €2.5 million in direct funding for the Bia Hub initiative is, of course, welcome for the Galway town. But it is crumbs from the table compared to the €850 million Apple pie into which Athenry seemed set to tuck, when the tech giant proposed it in 2015 as the location for a massive new data centre.

At the weekend, Allan Daly, one of the two local objectors who have stymied the Apple proposal with court bids aimed at reversing its planning permission, wrote a lengthy public post in defence of his position.

Mr Daly and Sineád Fitzpatrick are currently seeking permission to take a Supreme Court appeal against the High Court’s decision to reject their judicial review appeal against the decision of An Bord Pleanála.

He said he is acting in the interest of Athenry and the national interest in trying to block the data centre on environmental grounds. Mr Daly, who is separately attempting to block a proposed Amazon data centre in Dublin, says the future demands that data centres may place on the national power grid have not properly been considered.

Yet, in fact, this very issue has been considered at length. First by Galway County Council, which has put the entire planning file up online. The issue was then considered in detail by An Bord Pleanála, which also facilitated discussion of the matter at public hearings in Galway.

In rejecting the last appeal by Mr Daly and Ms Fitzpatrick, a High Court judge said they were trying to “reargue” the planning debate – the purpose of a judicial review is only to ensure that the planning decision was arrived at legally; not whether or not it was a good planning decision.

Judges are not planning officials. Yet given the frequency of court appeals against decisions made within the dedicated planning system, you would almost believe judges are an integral part of the planning process. This must change.

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