The Supreme Court will continue to hear an appeal against planning permission for the Apple data centre in Athenry, even though Apple has abandoned the project.
The Supreme Court is allowing the case to continue because there are important legal issues to be examined, and because there is still three years left on the planning permission given by An Bord Pleánala, which could be transferred to another group.
Apple announced in early May that they had abandoned plans for a proposed €850 million development in Athenry just as the case was about to be heard by the Supreme Court, and are no longer involved in proceedings.
However, according to the Irish Times the court has agreed to add the State to the case in support of An Bord Pleánala.
Lawyer for the applicants Oisín Collins did not object to the state joining the case, but said they had reservations as to why it was getting involved and added that this has become a “political football”.
Local objectors Allan Daly and Sineád Fitzpatrick appealed the decision by An Bord Pleánala to grant planning permission for the project on the grounds that a proper environmental impact assessment hadn’t been carried out.
According to the applicants the board only examined the impact of a single data hall which Apple would have built as phase one of the development, without looking at a proposed “masterplan” for seven more halls.
When fully developed, the Apple data centre would have increased demand on the national electric grid by up to 8 percent they said, while there is currently no standard policy addressing how to manage the electricity demands of energy intensive data centres.
The High court struck down their appeal last October, and denied them permission to go to the Court of Appeals a month later.
The Supreme Court decided at the start of May that there were sufficient matters of public importance for them to hear an appeal, and indicated that the case may have to be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU as it involves principles of EU law.
Several Galway TDs said at the time that losing out on such a large capital investment project was a huge blow for the west of Ireland and underscored the need for the government to make sure planning applications don’t get bogged down in judicial review or else risk scaring off potential investors.