Ap­ple de­ci­sion wel­comed as boost for west

TDs call for plan­ning to be re­formed

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By He­len Bruce

A NEW Ap­ple data cen­tre is just the first step in plans to bring the west of Ire­land alive, sup­port­ers vowed, af­ter the Com­mer­cial Court cleared the way for the €850mil­lion fa­cil­ity near Athenry, Co. Gal­way.

Mr Jus­tice Paul McDer­mott re­jected at­tempts to quash the plan­ning per­mis­sion granted for the cen­tre, which prom­ises to gen­er­ate at least 300 tem­po­rary jobs in its construction and will re­quire a fur­ther 100 per­ma­nent staff to run it.

The ob­jec­tors have un­til Mon­day to de­cide on any ap­peal.

Mem­bers of Ap­ple sup­port­ers group Ap­ple for Athenry had packed into the court to hear the re­sult. Speak­ing out­side af­ter­wards, their spokesman Noel Do­herty said: ‘To­day’s de­ci­sion has been a great de­ci­sion for Athenry and the whole west of Ire­land. We have been look­ing for this for a long time.

‘I hope our pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Sligo to Lim­er­ick will help us to de­velop the west coast and bring com­pa­nies like Ap­ple into Athenry, and make Athenry a hub town for the whole west coast.

‘Athenry suf­fered a lot in the re­ces­sion, with lots of em­i­gra­tion. To­day is the be­gin­ning of the west be­ing awake again.’

In their case against the grant­ing of plan­ning per­mis­sion, Sinéad Fitzpatrick and Al­lan Daly, whose home at Lisheenkyle, Athenry, is close to the pro­posed cen­tre in Der­ry­don­nell, had claimed that An Bord Pleanála had failed to as­sess the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the cen­tre cor­rectly.

The judge said the ap­pli­cants had raised con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment and the pre­ma­tu­rity of an ap­pli­ca­tion for the elec­tric­ity line and sub­sta­tion.

But he ruled that it was not the func­tion of the court to act as a plan­ning author­ity, but to as­sess if the plan­ning pro­ce­dures had been car­ried out in ac­cor­dance with the law.

Brian McDon­agh, of Bal­ly­mount Cross Busi­ness Park, Dublin, had sep­a­rately claimed that he was con­cerned about the de­struc­tion of for­est in Co. Gal­way. The judge said Mr McDon­agh had no grounds on which to bring the pro­ceed­ings, as he was not res­i­dent in the area, or per­son­ally af­fected.

Ap­ple first an­nounced plans for the data cen­tre on a green­field site at Der­ry­don­nell Woods in Fe­bru­ary 2015. The fol­low­ing Septem­ber, Gal­way County Coun­cil granted plan­ning per­mis­sion sub­ject to con­di­tions.

That de­ci­sion was ap­pealed to An Bord Pleanála, which con­firmed the per­mis­sion in Au­gust of last year.

Lo­cal TDs wel­comed the de­ci­sion and were crit­i­cal of the plan­ning de­lays.

In­de­pen­dent TD Michael Fitz­mau­rice said: ‘We will have to take a crit­i­cal look at this whole process be­cause the way it stands it is far too slow and is a threat to em­ploy­ment and the econ­omy in gen­eral.’

In­de­pen­dent TD Noel Gre­al­ish said he was ‘de­lighted the go-ahead has fi­nally been given’ but that he was con­cerned that it had taken so long to get the project to this stage. He added: ‘It all points to a need to re­form our plan­ning laws.’

he­len.bruce@dai­ly­mail.ie

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