South Dublin County Council ordered to reverse ban on developing data centres

Decision to make data centres a ‘not permitted’ use in the new county development plan breached national and regional policy, says Minister

The Government has ordered South Dublin County Council to reverse its ban on the development of new data centres which was introduced by councillors in defiance of the planning regulator.

Minister of State for Planning Peter Burke has told the council’s chief executive, Danny McLoughlin, that the councillors’ decision to make data centres a “not permitted” use in the new county development plan breached national and regional policy and must be reversed.

The councillors’ failure to comply with the recommendations of the regulator to remove the ban meant the development plan was not consistent with proper planning and sustainable development of the area, Mr Bourke said.

More than 30 data centres are already operating in south Dublin, with councillors increasingly concerned about the pressure their growth was putting on the electricity grid.


Last March councillors voted in favour of a motion proposed by People Before Profit councillor Madeleine Johansson which would remove data centres as a permissible use of land in the south Dublin area for the next six years.

The move followed a decision by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities to require data centres to have their own emergency power source if they are to be allowed access to the national grid. EirGrid, which operates the electricity network, has recently stopped talks in relation to several potential data centres following the commission’s decision.

However, the Office of the Planning Regulator told the council there was a “national objective to promote Ireland as a sustainable international destination for ICT infrastructures such as data centres and associated economic activities at appropriate locations”.

The council had not provided “any strategic justification to support making data centres a ‘not permitted’ use” in the development plan, it said, and there was not a “robust planning rationale for imposing a blanket restriction on data centres across all land use zonings in the development plan”.

Mr Burke said the development plan “has not been made in a manner consistent with, and has failed to implement, the recommendations of the Office of the Planning Regulator”. The council was required to “reinstate data centre use class as an ‘open for consideration’ use”, he said.

The council has also been ordered to retain a “rural” zoning on lands to the north and east of Greenogue Business Park. Councillors have changed the zoning of these lands to enterprise and employment use, but the regulator said there was no strategic justification for the zoning on what was a “peripheral location” remote from high-quality public transport.

The zoning was “not consistent with the objectives of sustainable mobility and transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society, and would set a further precedent for this pattern of development in the general area”, the regulator said.

The council will publish a notice in The Irish Times on August 10th setting out the details of the ministerial directions in relation to both the data centres and the land rezoning, which will be open to public consultation until August 23rd.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times