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Conclusion of legal row over Apple’s abandoned Irish datacentre fuels site takeover hopes

After four years of planning delays and legal wrangles, Irish Supreme Court dismisses appeal lodged by objectors to the Apple’s abandoned Irish datacentre build

The conclusion of the four-year legal wrangle over the decision to grant Apple planning permission for an €850m datacentre in County Galway, Ireland, has reignited hopes that some other tech firm might acquire the site and build a server farm there instead.

The Irish Supreme Court confirmed that it had dismissed an appeal against the decision to award Apple planning permission for the project in Athenry on 11 April 2019.

According to local media reports, the appeal was unanimously denied by a panel of five judges, who also ruled out referring the matter on for further deliberation by the European Court of Justice, leaving the objectors few, if any, additional legal avenues to explore.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the Supreme Court confirmed in early March that it had reached a verdict in the case, but was reserving its judgment until a later date, before making its thoughts on the matter public last week.

The appeal, lodged by two longstanding objectors to the project, Allan Daly and Sinead Fitzpatrick, centred on the whether the independent planning chiefs at An Bord Pleanála were right give Apple the go-ahead for the project in 2015.

In the objectors’ view, an insufficient assessment of the project’s environmental impact had been conducted before permission was granted, given that Apple had alluded to the fact that additional data halls could be built on the site in due course, above and beyond those outlined in the original planning brief.

Before it was dismissed by the Supreme Court, the appeal had also been turned down by the Irish High Court.

While all this played out in the courts, Apple was unable to press ahead with any kind of construction at the site, and in May 2018 confirmed that it would not pursue the project any further. At the time of writing, the tech company remains the registered owner of the site.

Read more about the Apple-Athenry datacentre case

In a statement on his Facebook page, Ciarán Cannon, Irish state minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said he is now confident that the various legal issues pertaining to the site are resolved and it will not take long for another tech firm to take it over.

“The way is now clear for a major investment and in a world where data storage requirements are going through the roof, I am convinced this site will be developed sooner rather than later,” wrote Cannon.

“This is a site owned by Apple, with all the necessary infrastructure in place and with full planning permission. Sites like this are very rare internationally.”

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