The Government's plan to allow companies building data centres to bypass the local authority stage and apply directly to An Bord Pleanála is aiding major multinationals while leaving national developers at the mercy of the State's "problematic" planning laws, a representative body for auctioneers has said.
The Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV) is calling on the Government to amend planning laws so that objections to construction plans cannot be made by any person but only by those directly affected by the proposed project.
It also accused the Government of introducing a solution to planning delays for major multinationals while leaving Irish developers to deal with complaints from local “begrudgers”.
The Government announced earlier this year that data centres would be considered “strategic infrastructure” under new planning laws. The change means applicants planning to build data centres can apply directly for permission to An Bord Pleanála and will no longer need to seek initial planning permission from local authorities.
The decision follows two years of objections and delays to plans by tech firm Apple to build a European data centre near Athenry in east Galway.
“One of the biggest issues with current regulations is that virtually anyone can object to a planning proposal, be it an individual with no connection whatsoever geographically or economically with the proposed project or a neighbour in close proximity to the relevant project,” said IPAV chief executive Pat Davitt. “While many objectors are genuine, it is also a charter in many instances for begrudgers and the ‘nimby’ [not in my back yard] community. It presents an unreasonable influence opportunity and in many instances works against the common good.”
Davitt commended the Government for introducing measures to prevent planning delays at a multinational level but reminded policymakers of the the need to introduce changes at a more local level.
“What we’re really saying is that if they’re prepared to do it for one section of planning they should be prepared to make the changes for all planning. They need to look at the bigger picture, and we’ve been calling for this change for the past three budget submissions.”
Davitt described Irish laws as “virtually unique” in allowing a system of third-party objections which he said results in an average of 79 weeks from the initial planning application to commencement of construction. “It is perverse, given current and projected demand for housing,” he said.