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Irish High Court denies appeal bid by Apple datacentre objectors

Written by  Nov 02, 2017

Apple is closer to breaking ground on its proposed 24,500m2 datacentre in Athenry, County Galway, after the Irish High Court refused to grant permission for the objectors to appeal against the build.

The High Court granted Apple permission to proceed with the project on 12 October, after the judge rejected two judicial reviews raised by objectors to the proposed development.

The parties involved were then given the opportunity to make a further application to appeal against this decision, and had until mid-October to submit details to the court.

The judge, Justice Paul McDermott, stated at the time that the appeal could be pursued only if the objectors could identify a point of law of “exceptional public importance” on which to base it.

It is understood that one of the long-standing objectors, Brian McDonagh, declined the invitation, while joint objectors Sinead Fitzpatrick and Allan Daly decided to press ahead with another appeal.

According to court documents seen by Computer Weekly, the appeal sought by Fitzpatrick and Daly failed to meet the requirements set out by McDermott and has been refused on that basis.

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The pair attempted to question the legality of allowing an application for a standalone project – in this case the first phase of a datacentre development – to proceed without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the overall development being carried out.

“What is the legal extent of ‘as far as practicable’ in the context of the scope of an EIA of a development that is the first phase of an overall masterplan?” the document said. “In particular, where the broad parameters of the overall masterplan are known (and are fundamental to the site’s location for the development proposal), to what extent can the lack of precise detail prevent the conduct of an assessment?”

The pair now have the option to appeal against the High Court’s ruling and take their case to the Supreme Court, but again the onus will be on them to prove that their arguments are in the public interest.

The project has already been delayed by more than two and a half years because of planning appeals and court date deferments.

Supporters of the project – banding together as Athenry for Apple – have previously voiced concerns that the consumer electronics giant may decide to cut its losses and build the datacentre elsewhere if there are further delays.

Similarly, the Irish government is said to be considering an overhaul of the country’s planning laws to prevent other firms facing similar delays and opposition when building datacentres in Ireland, which, in turn, may harm the country’s position as a burgeoning tech hub.

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