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Irish planning chiefs dismiss appeal against Amazon's €1bn datacentre build

Irish planning chiefs have granted Amazon permission to proceed with its plans to build a €1bn datacentre in Dublin to support the continued European growth of its cloud business

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has won the backing of Irish planning chiefs to proceed with the construction of its €1bn datacentre in Dublin, despite objector concerns about the environmental friendliness of the project.

Irish planning body, An Bord Pleanála (ABP), has upheld Fingal County Council’s (FCC) decision to grant the cloud services giant permission to push ahead with the build, after objectors moved to appeal the decision in May 2017.

As reported by Computer Weekly at the time, the build was expected to take 18 months to complete, with the help of 400 construction workers.

Once complete, Amazon estimates that more than 30 on-site technicians and support staff will be required to oversee the day-to-day running of the site.

The appeal was raised by two individuals – named David Hughes and Allan Daly – who objected to Amazon being allowed to proceed with the build without an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being carried out first.

Daly, incidentally, is also one of the objectors to Apple’s plans to build a datacentre in Athenry, County Galway, which has – so far – been delayed by nearly three years.

As part of the appeal process, the objectors were invited to take part in a two-day oral hearing, held in September 2017, where they were afforded the opportunity to go into greater detail about their concerns about the project.

The hearing also featured input from members of the AWS senior management team, who were called on to respond to the objectors concerns over the site’s energy use, sustainability and the impact its activities could have on the air quality, among other things.

In a brief statement on the ABP website, the planning board confirmed Amazon was granted permission to proceed with the build, under revised conditions, on 18 January 2018.

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According to a report in the Irish Times, John Desmond, a senior planning inspector with ABP, said the project “must surely be viewed positively” during his recommendations that permission for the project to proceed should be granted.

While the planning documents for the build call for permission to build a single “data storage facility”, Amazon has indicated that, should the demand for cloud services in the UK and Ireland continue to grow, there may be scope to build up to seven additional datacentres on the site over time.

The objectors have so far succeeded in delaying the build by a number of months, as work on the datacentre – located in the Mulhuddart suburb of Dublin – was initially pegged to start in mid-2017.

As previously mentioned, the case shares a number of parallels with Apple’s much-delayed push to build a datacentre on the west coast of Ireland, which has also been repeatedly contested by objectors on environmental grounds.

Apple also won the support of ABP for its project, prompting the objectors to seek a judicial review into the decision, which is a route the Amazon objectors may also choose to take.

In the wake of the delays faced by Apple and Amazon in getting their facilities built, the Irish government is said to be considering an overhaul of its planning laws and procedures to prevent other organisations from suffering a similar fate. 

Computer Weekly contacted AWS for comment on this story, but had not received a response at the time of writing.  ... .... .... .... ... ...... .... .... .... ... ...

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