Saturday 16 December 2017

Apple wins right to fast track data centre legal fight

An artist’s impression of the data centre planned for Athenry in Co Galway
An artist’s impression of the data centre planned for Athenry in Co Galway

Tim Healy

A LEGAL challenge over a decision to allow multinational tech giants Apple to develop a data centre in Co Galway has been transferred to the fast track commercial court division of the High Court.

The action has been brought by Sinead Fitzpatrick and Allan Daly against An Bord Pleanála's decision last August to allow Apple build the centre, which is one of eight such proposed developments, at lands at Toberroe, Palmerstown, Derrydonnell at Athenry in Co Galway.

They want the board's decision to give the data centre the green light quashed. The cost of the overall proposed plan is some €850m. Ms Fitzpatrick and Mr Daly of Lisheenkyle, Athenry, which is close to the proposed centre, claim the decision to grant permission to Apple is invalid on grounds which include that the board failed to carry out a proper assessment of the effects the proposed development will have on the environment.

Ms Fitzpatrick says she and her neighbours are concerned about the development, particularly about the enormous energy demand that it would create in the location.

On a full build out, the development has a bigger energy demand than the greater Dublin area. She says there appears to be little or no analysis of the environmental impacts of this increase in power demand.

Yesterday, Apple Distribution International, which seeks to develop the data centre and which is a notice party to the action, applied to have the case admitted to the fast-track commercial court list.

In a sworn statement seeking the transfer, Catherine Kearney, a director of Apple Distribution International, and vice president of operations for Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East, said the company wants the action "as expeditiously as possible".

She said the proposed centre amounts to "critical pieces of infrastructure required to support the worldwide demand for global storage necessary to cater for the rapid expansion in wireless electronic communication, entertainment and work".

"Apple has experienced an exponential growth in the demand for data processing and storage and expects this trend to continue in the future," she said.

The growth in demand for Apple's cloud computing and storage service means a large number of large data centres need to be built on a phased basis to deal with the demand.

The Athenry project is expected to create hundreds of jobs, both directly and indirectly. The case was admitted to the list by Mr Justice Cregan.

Irish Independent

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