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Apple garners local support for Irish datacentre as legal challenge looms

Residents of Athenry, County Galway, unite to back Apple’s Irish datacentre plans as consumer electronics giant awaits High Court decision on legal challenges

Apple’s plan to build an €850m datacentre in Ireland has won the support of local residents, who are urging opponents of the scheme to consider the economic benefits it will bring to the community.  

More than 2,000 Apple supporters marched through the streets of Athenry, County Galway, on Sunday 6 November to demonstrate their backing for the project.

The march, organised by members of the Athenry for Apple Facebook group, was designed to show that the area is open for business and keen for the build to happen as quickly as possible, members said in a series of posts on the social networking site.

“We want to show Apple, and the whole world, that the vast majority of Athenry people support wholeheartedly Apple’s desire to open a datacentre near our town,” said a post, announcing the march.

The campaign was mounted because of concern that any further delays to the project may cause Apple to abandon its plan entirely, putting at risk the 300 job opportunities the company claims the construction phase would bring to the area.  

“Apple could take this datacentre anywhere in the world, and it chose Athenry,” said one group member. “It will bring hundreds, if not thousands of jobs in construction, and a lot of engineering/technical and management jobs when it opens.”

Apple first received conditional planning permission for the 24,500m2, single-storey datacentre in September 2015, but a “valid appeal” was lodged with Irish planning body An Bord Pleanála (ABP) by local residents objecting to the project.

It is understood the residents’ objections centred on the environmental impact the scheme could have on local wildlife populations and traffic levels.

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ABP granted permission for the build to go ahead in August 2016, but then a legal challenge was mounted by three local people, delaying the project further.

In response, Apple asked the High Court to fast-track the legal challenge, resulting in an announcement on 7 November that the case will be fast-tracked and heard within the next six months, with a hearing now scheduled for March 2017.

Without the High Court's intervention, Apple could have faced up to an 18 month wait to see if its datacentre plans could proceed. 

One of the objectors to Apple’s plans is known to be local businessman Brian McDonagh, who, according to local press reports, is embroiled in a lengthy planning dispute with Wicklow County Council about a datacentre build of his own.

He has pursued his own bid for a judicial review into the build, which is expected to be heard in the court on Monday 14 November.

Meanwhile, all three objectors are being urged by members of the Facebook group to reconsider their position and think about the economic benefits for the local community of Apple investing in the area.

“I was proud to stand united with the town today to say our future won’t be compromised by three objectors,” wrote one member. “Athenry for Apple – loud and clear.”

Computer Weekly contacted Apple to comment on this story, but had not received a response at the time of publication. .............................................

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