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Irish planning chiefs face legal challenge over granting Amazon permission for datacentre

Amazon Web Services faces a fresh round of opposition to its plans to build a datacentre in Dublin after an objector lodged a legal challenge to the planning chiefs who approved the project

Irish planning chiefs face legal action over their decision to grant Amazon Web Services (AWS) permission to press ahead with plans to build a datacentre in Dublin.

As reported by Computer Weekly at the start of the year, the Irish planning board – An Bord Pleanála (ABP) – upheld the decision of Fingal County Council to grant Amazon permission to proceed with the project, in response to an objector appeal dating back to May 2017.

Environmentalist Peter Sweetman has now sought to challenge ABP’s stance on the project, according to documents filed with the Irish court service, which could push back the construction start date even further.

When details of the project first came to light, construction was initially pegged to start in mid-2017, but a series of appeals and challenges from another pair of third-party objectors have put progress on hold.

The May 2017 appeal was raised by two individuals – 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 is also one of the objectors to Apple’s plans to build a datacentre in Athenry, County Galway, which has been delayed by nearly three years so far.

It is unclear at present whether Daly and Hughes have any plans to begin a separate legal challenge against ABP.  

According to a report in the Irish Times, Sweetman wants Amazon’s permission to proceed with the project withdrawn and is also seeking confirmation that ABP has fallen foul of EU and local laws by not carrying out an assessment of the project’s environmental impact. He is due to put his case to the court in July 2018.

Read more about Irish datacentre builds

The Irish Times appears to have seen a copy of the affidavit filed with the court by Amazon in the Sweetman challenge, which claims that any delays to the delivery of the project could have a negative impact on the firm’s cloud services business.

The case has 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, 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.

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

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