De­ci­sion met with de­light by town

The Irish Times - - Home News - LORNA SIGGINS West­ern Cor­re­spon­dent in Athenry

Ap­ple chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Cook might have liked the taste of San­dra Mor­ris­sey’s cakes if he had dropped by Athenry’s Square Inn yes­ter­day.

Ms Mor­ris­sey, whose hus­band Mar­tin runs the pub in the town cen­tre, had been up early bak­ing. When the Com­mer­cial Court’s de­ci­sion in the multi­na­tional’s favour flashed up on smart­phones, there were cheers of de­light, and a run on the ap­ple buns.

Mr Cook might just have smelt the oven, if he had been minded to take a quick flight north. Michelle Her­t­erich of Athenry Com­mu­nity Croun­cil had noted that he was in France sev­eral days ago.

His “sur­prise” visit to the Cal­va­dos re­gion and to Omaha beach in Nor­mandy be­fore a meet­ing with French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron made the front page of Ouest-France.

“So I would just love to see Tim Cook vis­it­ing here now, as then this de­ci­sion would feel real,” she said. “He could have flown into Shannon, or Carn­more, on his pri­vate jet !”

Cel­e­brated

“Maybe he is wait­ing to see if there is an ap­peal,” one of her neigh­bours won­dered, as tea and cof­fee was served up. It was a small enough group which had cel­e­brated the rul­ing in the hostelry, with fel­low trav­ellers in the Ap­ple for Athenry cam­paign al­ready up at the High Court.

“But we are de­lighted,” Ms Her­t­erich said. “We feel we have been left be­hind here. Ev­ery­one knows Gal­way city is at ca­pac­ity. We are per­fectly set up for peo­ple to come and work in Athenry.”

Su­san McGrady, So­cial Democrats lo­cal area rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Athenry and Oran­more, said she was “very re­lieved that it is now all over, and we can look for­ward to the project start­ing”.

“There was so much en­ergy put into the Ap­ple for Athenry cam­paign, and it will be great, that en­ergy di­rected into the town,” she said.

The Com­mer­cial Court de­ci­sion, which ef­fec­tively up­holds Bord Pleanála ap­proval for the project, re­lates to one data cen­tre only.

Ap­ple has plans, not yet ap­proved, for seven more, at a to­tal cost of be­tween ¤850 mil­lion and ¤1 bil­lion.

Fine Gael coun­cil­lor Peter Feeney, who is chair of the com­mu­nity coun­cil, ex­plained this was why Ap­ple re­quired such a large site – all of 500 acres at Der­ry­don­nell.

“Yes, we have an IDA site in the town, and I know this part of the case made by the ob­jec­tors,” he said. “But lo­cat­ing it in the town would also have re­quired elec­tric­ity py­lons, whereas there is al­ready elec­tric­ity in­fra­struc­ture at Der­ry­don­nell.

“Ap­ple is not here to­day but it did really en­gage with the com­mu­nity,” Mr Feeney added. “There was a con­cerned group of peo­ple in Lisheenkyle, close to the site, who lodged an ini­tial ob­jec­tion, but most of those peo­ple had their con­cerns met.”

Lisheenkyle pri­mary school has an out­door class­room, which Ap­ple has promised to up­grade, and the school has also been pro­vided with iPads.

The project does not come with a com­mu­nity in­vest­ment fund specif­i­cally writ­ten into plan­ning con­di­tions, Mr Feeney ac­knowl­edged.

“Com­mu­nity gain” in­volves giv­ing a re­turn to the com­mu­nity – rather than to in­di­vid­ual landown­ers – for a par­tic­u­lar de­vel­op­ment, and it had been an op­tional power af­forded to plan­ning au­thor­i­ties un­til it was specif­i­cally leg­is­lated for after 2006.

A sim­i­lar data cen­tre planned by Ap­ple in Den­mark in­cor­po­rated plans to use ex­cess heat to warm homes nearby, but Ire­land lacks the district, or shared, heat­ing sys­tems which would al­low for this.

“We wouldn’t really ex­pect the com­pany to in­vest in the com­mu­nity,” Mr Feeney said. “Ap­ple’s in­vest­ment is a form of com­mu­nity in­vest­ment. There will be con­struc­tion jobs and spin-off jobs, and rates paid to the lo­cal au­thor­ity.”

Mr Mor­ris­sey, still busy be­hind the bar, agreed. “We are look­ing for­ward to be­com­ing the Sil­i­con val­ley of the west of Ire­land,” he said.

‘‘ We feel we have been left be­hind here. Ev­ery­one knows Gal­way city is at ca­pac­ity

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