Sunday, October 22, 2017

Irish courts finally approve Apple’s $1bn data centre ending 2-year delay that has changed Ireland

From 2015 to today, the Athenry data centre project was one of the most mediatic the industry has seen in years, with thousands taking to the streets in support for the development.

Apple has today won a 2-year-long court battle granting the company the necessary permission to build a $1bn data centre in Galway, Ireland.

The project, originally announced in 2015, was challenged by three objectors who put forward a review request to the An Bord Pleanála, an independent, statutory, quasi-judicial body that decides on appeals from planning decisions made by local authorities in Ireland.

The objectors’ main concern was the poor environmental impact assessment carried out by Apple. They alleged the facility would have a negative impact on people living around the site, and also on the fauna and flora at the Derrydonnell Woods, around Athenry, east of Galway, where the data centre is to be built.

The decision to approve the planning permission for the iPhone maker was announced by judge Mr Justice McDermott from the High Court. The three objectors are, however, expected to appeal.

The construction of the 166,000 sqm data centre is expected to generate up to 300 jobs during the different phases of expansion. 150 technical staff are to be employed once the facility is put to work.

Data Economy has requested Apple to comment on the court’s ruling.

Garry Connolly, Founder and President, Host in Ireland, told Data Economy: “We are delighted that the planning process has had a successful outcome for the Apple Data Hosting Centre in Galway.

“The planning process itself in Ireland is transparent, open and like in any effective and functioning democracy gives citizens the right to comment and provide inputs.

“We (Irish) now need to tweak the planning process to include a time certainty to this process not just for Data Centres but for all large capital intense infrastructure projects.

“This positive news coupled with Microsoft’s commitment to power their Data Centres here on 100% Irish generated renewable power reaffirms our calibre as an optimum location to Host Digital assets.”


A data centre that has changed Ireland

Without even having started to power Apple’s services, the company’s data centre in Athenry has already made some profound changes in Irish regulations and citizens involvement.

The ongoing delays regarding the company’s planning permission have led the national government to review its planning proposal scheme and put changes in place to fast track data centre projects which are crucial to build Ireland’s future as an European data centre up-Tier city.

In addition to the government’s regulatory changes, people in Athenry have also become proactively vocal on the issue both through social media channels and on the streets.

Up to 2,000 residents marched through Athenry in support of the data centre development back in November 2016.

Last month, news broke that Apple had reportedly told Irish authorities it could cancel its investment due to the ongoing delays, something the company was quick to react to cementing its commitment to build the data centre.

However, the fear Apple could indeed pull the plug on the development was taken serious by local residents in favour of the data centre, with many referring to Apple’s announcement in October 2016 that it would build a large $950m data centre in Denmark.

In July last, the company unveiled plans to invest a further $920m in the construction of a second facility in Denmark growing concerns amongst Irish supporters.