Apple decision welcomed as boost for west
TDs call for planning to be reformed
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.’