Massive blow to Athenry as Apple scraps plans for €850 million data centre

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

Apple has announced today that it will not be going ahead with plans for an €850 million data centre in Athenry due to planning delays.

The decision by Apple came as an appeal against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission was set to be heard by the Supreme Court.

In a statement about their decision Apple said: “Several years ago we applied to build a data centre at Athenry. Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data centre.

“While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow.”

Apple first announced plans for the Athenry data centre more than three years ago in February 2015, however the project has been mired in objections since Galway County Council first gave approval in December of that year, first to An Bord Pleanála and later to the courts.

Galway East TD Seán slammed the slow pace of the process through the court system and warned this could scare off businesses considering investing in Ireland.

“The delays arose not over difficulties with the planning procedures but with the judicial review process. We need to set timelines so potential investors know they will have a decision within a certain amount of time.

“It is up to ourselves as legislators to fix this and we need to do it as a matter of urgency to restore faith in our planning and judicial review process for foreign investors.”

Today’s news will be seen as blow for the residents of Athenry who hoped that the data centre would not only create jobs, but lure more high tech investment to the area.

Building the data centre was expected to involve roughly 300 temporary construction jobs and once it was complete, operating it would have involved 150 full time jobs.

Speaking to The Journal, Paul Keane of the Athenry for Apple community group said the news was a “hammer blow” to the west of Ireland.

“We’ve always tried to attract jobs down here and take them out of the cities because the cities are bursting at the seams. But locally it would have been a huge advantage to have Apple in the locality.

“It’s a hammer blow for small business in the area that would have benefited from the 350 plus jobs that would have come to the area. We’ve tried our best to campaign on behalf of it but it didn’t seem to have any effect.”

But he added they were trying to stay positive and focus on how the site Apple had designated for its data centre could be developed.

Deputy Canney added that the government should designate Athenry as an are of special investment to counteract the loss of Apple to the area.

The appeal of planning permission was before the High Court last October when it granted approval for Apple to go ahead, and refused permission for their decision to be appealed to the Court of Appeals.

However, last week the Supreme Court agreed to hear and appeal from local objectors Allan Daly and Sinéad Fitzpatrick.

The centre of their argument has always been that An Bord Pleanála did not carry out a proper Environmental Impact Assessment when it gave planning permission.

Fears over the future of the data centre project have been growing for some time now, and became particularly strong when Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to say Apple was committed to the project at a meeting with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last year.

Apple have said that the decision will have no affect on its commitment to its business in Ireland; they’ve had a presence in Ireland since 1980 and say that they support 2,500 jobs around the country.