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Apple pulls plug on €850m Irish datacentre project after three-year planning delay

Apple has confirmed it is abandoning its bid to build a datacentre on the west coast of Ireland, blaming three years of legal challenges and planning appeals that have blighted the project

Apple has called time on its plans to build an €850m datacentre in Athenry, on the west coast of Ireland, after more than three years of planning delays and legal challenges.

In a statement to the Irish Times, the consumer electronics giant said it remains committed to expanding its operations in Ireland, despite lengthy delays in the local planning system putting paid to the Athenry project, which was first announced in February 2015.

“Several years ago, we applied to build a datacentre at Athenry,” the Apple statement read. “Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the datacentre.

“While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow.”

Apple’s decision to abandon the project comes on the same day that a Supreme Court appeal hearing, brought about by objectors, was due to take place.

If the project had gone ahead, it would have seen Apple construct a 24,500m2 datacentre – and accompanying 220kV power station – in Derrydonnell Forest, Athenry.

The prospect of Apple siting its datacentre in the area has proved a hugely divisive issue in the local community, with supporters – mobilising under the name Athenry for Apple – hailing the economic benefits of the project, while others have expressed concerns about the environmental impact it could have.

It was the latter issue on which the two main objectors in the case, Allan Daly and Sinead Fitzpatrick, have based many of their objections, as they have pursued various legal routes over the past two years in an attempt to halt Apple’s plans.

At the time of publication, neither of the objectors had commented on Apple’s decision, and Apple had not responded to Computer Weekly’s requests for further comment on the case.

Read more about Apple’s Irish datacentre project

In a statement posted to the Athenry for Apple Facebook group, Ciaran Cannon, minister of state at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said Apple’s decision to drop the project was “deeply disappointing” for all those who had campaigned for the datacentre to be built.

But their efforts will not have been in vain, said Cannon, because the case has already prompted the Irish government to start pushing through reforms to the way planning applications are handled in the country.

“I very much regret that Apple will not be pursuing its plans to construct this datacentre, especially as the project would have been a source of significant investment and job creation for Galway and the west of Ireland,” he said.

“It is deeply disappointing for all those who have worked so hard to secure this potential investment in the first instance, not least the Athenry for Apple group. The kind of reforms we need are already under way, particularly in relation to our legal system.”

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