Permission granted for data storage campus in Co Meath

An Bord Pleanála dismisses appeals by environmentalists over pressure on grid

A  Friends of the Irish Environment report states that by 2028, data centres will consume 28 per cent of Ireland’s electricity. Photograph: iStock

A Friends of the Irish Environment report states that by 2028, data centres will consume 28 per cent of Ireland’s electricity. Photograph: iStock

 

An Bord Pleanála has dismissed appeals by environmentalists to grant planning permission for a new data storage campus near Bracetown, Co Meath.

The decision by the appeals board now gives EngineNode permission to proceed with the project that is set to generate 500 jobs during the construction phase and about 275 jobs when operational.

Facebook already operates a data centre in close proximity to the EngineNode proposal.

However, even before works can begin, the costs to EngineNode will be high.

This follows An Bord Pleanála rejecting a first party appeal by EngineNode to set aside a condition in the original grant of permission by Meath County Council, where the council demanded €1.8 million in planning contributions towards a new road before work can start on the project.

In a bid to stop the project from proceeding, An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) last year lodged appeals against the council’s planning permission.

In the appeal, An Taisce claimed that Ireland already hosted a disproportionate amount of western Europe’s data infrastructure, and Ireland’s bid to attract new data centres was putting significant pressure on the national grid. 

FIE said that at the time of lodging the appeal, there were 10 data centres under construction that would add 202 megawatts (MW) to the grid and 31 that had planning permission which would add 629MW.

The FIE report stated that by 2028, data centres would consume 28 per cent of Ireland’s electricity.

Local resident

Another appellant, local resident and operator of a nearby equestrian business, Mannix Coyne, told the appeals board in his appeal that the scale and size of the development would “entirely dwarf our residence”.

“Our landscape view will be dramatically changed forever. Instead of living in a pleasant rural location, we shall now be living in the middle of an intensive industrial estate,” he said.

However, senior planning inspector Karla McBride said that notwithstanding the anticipated demand for energy to serve the data centre, she was “satisfied that this issue will be ultimately addressed as Ireland moves towards its objective of providing 70 per cent of its energy renewable sources by 2030”.

Ms McBride ruled that the proposal would not injure the amenities of any houses or commercial buildings in the vicinity to any significant extent.