Apple may proceed to build a $1 billion data centre in Ireland, the High Court ruled on Thursday, bringing relief for the government after a two-year planning delay which it feared could hurt its reputation with investors.
The first challenge, instigated by environmental engineer Allan Daly and local legal expert Sinead Fitzpatrick, saw the pair contest an earlier decision by the Irish planning body, An Bord Plenala (ABP), to grant Apple permission to proceed with the build.
Both challenges were taken against An Bord Pleanala, with Apple Distribution Ireland, developer of the centre, as a notice party.
The data centres in Athenry and Denmark's Jutland are to be host to popular Apple services such as iCloud, Apple Music, Siri and various e-commerce activities. The case will return to the courts on Monday, where it will be decided whether or not a further appeal can be made against Apple. The objectors' main concern was the poor environmental impact assessment carried out by Apple.
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Supporters of the project have banded together through the creation of the Athenry for Apple Facebook page and have previously held rallies in the town and have spoken at length about the direct and indirect benefits the town is sure to feel from the project going ahead. The facility will cost around £750 million and is expected to provide 100 jobs in the local area.
Ireland's global business reputation has been damaged by delays to the Apple data centre in Athenry, according to IBEC.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar met Apple executives last month and said they had made clear their frustration with the planning and judicial delays and warned the process would colour decisions that they might make about future investments.
"Today's decision has been a great decision for Athenry and the whole west of Ireland", he said.
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"It all points to a need to reform our planning laws so that important infrastructural development such as this do not get caught up in years of objections and appeal after appeal".
Galway County Council granted permission in Sept 2015 but that was appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
A decision on the case was originally due on 25 September, but has been postponed until 24 November, with board-level staff shortages at ABP thought to be to blame.
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