Sunday 24 September 2017

Planning laws could be loosened after delays put Apple project at risk

Apple chief executive Tim Cook. Picture: PA
Apple chief executive Tim Cook. Picture: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Planning laws for data centres could be loosened in light of the delays experienced by tech giant Apple in Galway.

This week it was warned that ongoing delays surrounding the planning process could put the entire €1bn project at risk.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with executives from the company to discuss the matter.

"They expressed frustration at the legal and planning delays that have delayed that investment," he said.

However, the Taoiseach said the company remains committed to the project, adding that he shares the frustrations because the west of Ireland needs jobs.

"One of the things that is under consideration is an amendment to the Strategic Infrastructure Act to treat data centres as part of our strategic infrastructure and enable the planning process to work more smoothly," he said.

Meanwhile, business group Ibec said the protracted dispute "is a very good example of a planning system that's dysfunctional". Orla Casey, planning and infrastructure policy executive for Ibec, said the system "can too easily be exploited".

She told the Irish Independent that "ultimately it's a worry that if this isn't rectified, you'll see projects go elsewhere. There is also reputational damage to Ireland" .

She said the objection process can lead to endless delays that can ultimately doom a project. "With every delay it reduces the viability of the scheme," she said.

"We want Ireland to be an attractive place to invest, but the planning process is a black hole of bureaucracy."

Irish Independent

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