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Ireland’s planning laws cited as ‘risk’ to government’s public sector datacentre plan

The Irish government concedes in tender document that country’s complex planning laws could put at risk government plans to build a public sector datacentre in Kildare

The Irish government has acknowledged its own planning laws could jeopardise its plans to build a €30m public sector datacentre in County Kildare.

The Office of Public Works (OPW), which manages the government’s estate portfolio, issued a tender at the end of July 2018, seeking consultative support from the structural and civil engineering community for the project.

As reported by Irish news site, TheJournal.ie, work on the 7,000m2 datacentre is due to start in March 2019, while the tender itself confirms the consultation part of the contract will last for 19 months.

The supporting documents, however, state the datacentre will be subject to planning permission, which is considered a “known risk” to the project’s overall completion.

This is thought to be on the back of the problems Apple faced during its two-year abortive bid to secure planning permission to proceed with its plans to build a datacentre in Athenry, County Galway, as well as the delays cloud giant Amazon has faced with its plans to build a hyper-scale server farm in Dublin.

Despite the problems Apple and Amazon have faced, a report by Host in Ireland, published in July 2018, suggests Ireland remains a top location for datacentres, with more than a €1bn of new server farm investments announced during the three months to June 2018.

The country’s temperate climate, relatively cheap property prices, congenial tax regime and its collection of subsea cable landing sites are often cited as reasons why operators are increasingly favouring Ireland to site their datacentres.

So much so, the Host In Ireland report suggests inward investment to the country, brought about by the construction of datacentres, will hit €9.3bn by 2021.

The government has also outlined its commitment to reforming the country’s planning laws, to make them more sympathetic to the plight of datacentre operators by making the act of securing permission for the builds easier and more straightforward.

In June 2018, this work saw the Irish government set out plans to reclassify datacentres that meet the size criteria as “strategic infrastructure developments” so their planning applications can be fast-tracked, and confirm a review of the time it takes to reach judgements in planning disputes.

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