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Another Bite Of The Apple? Data Centre Planning To Be Streamlined After €850M Athenry Fiasco


A new government policy on data centres promises less bureacucracy and an easing of planning rules, in the wake of Apple's decision to abandon €850M plans to build a data centre at Athenry, County Galway.

The development of data centres, which provide the plumbing for Dublin's dominant tech sector, will be eased by amendment of the Planning and Development Act and measures to streamline judicial reviews of strategic infrastructure projects, the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation's policy statement promises.

Although there are just 1,800 direct data centre jobs, the statement describes data centres as "the backbone of Ireland’s overall digital economy" contributing €7B since 2010.

"Data centre development has encountered recent difficulties as a result of delays due to planning appeals and subsequent judicial reviews of planning permissions," the document states.

Legislative proposals will be brought forward for the inclusion of data centres above a minimum threshold in the Seventh Schedule to the Planning and Development Act 2000.

The government has also approved a package of measures to streamline judicial reviews of strategic infrastructure projects. The measures will build on the accelerated, one-stage planning process for strategic infrastructure projects which is already operated by An Bord Pleanála. Data centres will also be included in the accelerated judicial review procedure introduced for strategic infrastructure projects in February 2018.

The plan represents "joined up thinking" according to Silicon Republic. "A comedy of errors that descended into downright farce exposed the weaknesses in Ireland’s bureaucratic planning system. Numerous court dates were delayed by the constipated Irish legal system, which ultimately resulted in Apple pulling the plug. This was despite enormous local support for the project," it said.