Apple Athenry data centre case is going back to the courts

Galway Daily news Apple granted extension of permission for Athenry data centre

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the latest appeal against planning approval for Apple’s proposed €850 million data centre in Athenry.

Chief Justice of the Court, Mr. Justice Frank Clarke, Ms. Justice Elizabeth Dunne, and Mr. Justice John MacMenamin have published a determination agreeing to hear an appeal by local residents Sinead Fitzpatrick and Allan Daly.

They said they are aware of the strong public opinions surrounding the case but their job was to decide if the application met the criteria for an appeal as laid out in the Constitution.

For the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from the High Court it must be shown that it “involves a matter of general public importance” or is necessary in the interests of justice.

According to the Irish Times the three judges indicated that they may have to make a preliminary reference of certain issues to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Constructing the data centre is expected to create 300 temporary jobs, and Apple have said that when it is operational it will create 150 permanent jobs.

The core of the appellants case is that An Bord Pleanála failed to carry out a proper Environmental Impact Assessment of the data centre when granting planning approval.

They claim that the assessment done by An Bord Pleanála only took into account the one data hall planned under phase one of construction.

Representing the appellants, Mr. Oisin Collins has said they did not consider the potential for the data centre to grow to accommodate a total of eight halls in the future.

The High Court rejected an appeal by Ms. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Daly last October, and denied them permission to appeal that decision to the Court of Appeal in November.

Since the project was announced over three years ago worries have grown about whether Apple is still committed to the project after long delays.

CEO of Apple Tim Cook met with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last December to discuss the data centre, among other issues.

However afterwards Mr. Cook refused to definitively say that Apple remained committed to the project.

Apple first announced plans for the data centre in Athenry in February 2015, and Galway County Council gave its approval shortly afterwards.

A similar data centre in Denmark announced by Apple around the same time is nearly operational and Apple have committed to building another data centre in the Scandinavian country.