3dmentat - Fotolia

Apple datacentre plans win cautious approval from Galway County Council

Galway County Council planning department says development can proceed – so long as Apple commits to meeting 12 separate construction conditions

Apple has been granted conditional planning permission to start work on building €850 million datacentre in Ireland. 

The electronics giant submitted a planning application to Galway County Council in April 2015, seeking permission to build a 24,500m2 single-storey datacentre, along with supporting infrastructure, on a 500-acre site near Althenry.

The datacentre will be one of two the company is planning to build in Europe by 2017. Details of the builds were first announced in February 2015

In a statement released at the time, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “This significant new investment represents Apple’s biggest project in Europe to date. We’re thrilled to be expanding our operations, creating hundreds of local jobs and introducing some of our most advanced green building designs yet.”

According to documents filed with the council, Apple has been granted permission to proceed with the development, provided its plans are adjusted to meet 12 conditions set out by the authority to ensure the facility abides by its planning policies.

Apple will need to obey a series of rules governing when construction at the site can take place and how waste water from the site will be disposed of . The company must take steps to create a sustainable road management plan for the site.

It also needs to hire an archaeologist to carry out a geophysical survey of the site.

Apple said it expects the facility to be completed by 2017, and that it will create around 150 jobs in the process.

Computer Weekly contacted Galway County Council for a statement regarding the development, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Planning permission delays

A judgement on the planning application was provisionally expected earlier in June 2015, but was delayed after the council sought additional assurances from Apple over how it planned to power the site.

According to a report on Irish news site RTE, Apple has since outlined plans to draw on the national grid, but plans to replace the electricity it takes out through power purchase agreements with renewable energy firms.

Apple is understood to employ around 4,000 people in Ireland already, and will use the County Galway datacentre to provide European users with local access to services such as iTunes, iMessage and Maps.

The country has emerged as a popular location for many US technology giants to site their datacentres, but Apple’s activities and financial arrangements with the Irish government, in particular, have garnered much attention.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the tax breaks the Irish government previously offered to Apple have been described by European Commission (EC) regulators as essentially “state aid”, following claims the firm was receiving preferential treatment for creating jobs in the country.

Meanwhile, a report in the Irish Examiner this week suggests the EC is standing by its earlier claims, as the antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager moves to close its investigation into the matter.

If it concludes that any wrongdoing has taken place, Apple could end up shelling out millions of euros in recouped tax payments.

Read more about new-build datacentres

Managed hosting firm Sungard Availability Services has followed Apple, Facebook and Microsoft’s lead by outlining plans to open an Irish datacentre, creating 50 jobs in the process.

Microsoft is preparing to increase its datacentre footprint in Ireland, after submitting a planning permission application for a new 7,609 square metres facility in County Dublin.

Read more on Datacentre capacity planning