Ms. Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, today (Thursday) noted the announcement by Apple that it will not to continue as a notice party in the Supreme Court appeal against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission on their lands in Athenry.
Minister Humphreys said:
“I very much regret that Apple will not be pursuing its plans to construct a data centre in Athenry, especially as the project would have been a source of significant investment and job creation for Galway and the West of Ireland. Notwithstanding this bad news, I welcome that Apple have confirmed that they are strongly committed to their existing operations in Ireland.
“The Government, together with IDA Ireland, did everything it could to support this investment. This included high-level engagement with the company, both at home and abroad. Ultimately, in spite of these efforts, Apple has taken a commercial decision not to proceed, making it clear that the delays that beset this project caused them to reconsider their plans.
“These delays have, if nothing else, underlined our need to make the State’s planning and legal processes more efficient. The Government has therefore already been working, over the last number of months, to make improvements to those processes. This will ensure we are better placed to take advantage of future such investment opportunities, whether from data centre providers or other sectors.”
Commenting further on the actions taken by Government to ensure Ireland avails of all similar investments in the future, the Minister continued:
“The Government recognises the important role that data centre investments can – and still will – have in contributing to economic growth and job creation in Ireland. That’s why we agreed, in October 2017, to the implementation of a strengthened policy framework to support their continued development. That framework includes a number of actions which, once fully implemented, will help us attract and sustain such investments in the future, especially in regional locations.”
The actions include:
- The development of a National Policy Statement on the role of data centres in Ireland’s overall enterprise strategy. This will set out the importance of data centres to our economic development, and the potential for development in regional locations, whilst also taking account of wider challenges in energy and renewable energy policy.
- While fully respecting the importance of due process within the planning system, the Government is equally determined to maximise the certainty around decision-making timeframes.
- The Government has therefore published legislative proposals to designate data centres as “strategic infrastructure” for planning purposes. That will ensure that future data centre-related planning applications can move more swiftly through the planning process. This amendment to the Planning Act will be tabled in the forthcoming Seanad Report Stage deliberations on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016, expected to take place in the coming weeks; in early June 2018. It is expected that the changes will be enacted by the end of the current Dáil session.
- Similarly, the Government has recognised that we need to better streamline judicial review of strategic infrastructure projects. A package of measures is therefore underway that will provide greater certainty on the timeframe for judicial review decisions on planning and other consent processes.
- The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is reviewing the operation of the Strategic Infrastructure Act to determine if further changes are necessary in light of experience and informed by the Expert Group Review of An Bord Pleanála.
- New accelerated judicial review procedures for strategic infrastructure developments and related consents were put in place by way of a Practice Direction from Justice Peter Kelly, President of the High Court, in February this year.
- Justice Kelly is also chairing a Review of the Administration of Civil Justice and the Minister for Justice and Equality has written to him with a number of further suggestions for consideration by the Group in relation to judicial review of infrastructure projects.
- The importance of data centres to Ireland – particularly given the country’s reputation as a leading location for digital economy companies - and the potential for development in regional locations is also recognised in Project Ireland 2040, which makes clear that the promotion of Ireland as a sustainable international destination for ICT infrastructure is a key national objective.
Commenting on the impact of Apple’s decision on Athenry and Galway, Minister Humphreys added:
“There is no disputing that Apple’s decision is very disappointing, particularly for Athenry and the West of Ireland. The fact remains, however, that Ireland continues to attract record levels of foreign direct investment (FDI). 2017 was a record year for FDI in Ireland and we expect further strong investment and employment gains in 2018.
“Project Ireland 2040 represents a major investment in the region, in particular in the area of roads. This will result in better connectivity in the region, making it even more attractive to future investors.
“Regional investment is a particular priority for the Government and for the IDA. The West – comprising Galway, Mayo and Roscommon – has performed strongly in recent years, with a total of 101 IDA companies located there, employing over 23,000 people. Galway, in particular, has shown impressive FDI-driven employment growth since 2011. We remain confident that Galway will continue to be very attractive to investors.”
Notes to the Editor
Key measures in Project Ireland 2040 for the West region include:
- Support for a number of projects including the plans for Galway City Regeneration.
- Transport projects are planned to connect our cities and regions; projects like the proposed Galway ring road, the Moycullen bypass and a €200m investment in the BusConnects programme in Galway.
- Investment in higher education is a priority in Project Ireland 2040, supporting projects in the West of Ireland including new student residences in NUIG, a new STEM building in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, and the establishment of the Connacht Ulster Alliance consisting of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT.
- Investment in healthcare for the region includes new dedicated ambulatory elective-only hospital facilities for Galway and development of the Galway Emergency Department and ward block.
- Project Ireland 2040 also recognises the importance of investing in our culture and heritage, with support of €15m in principle committed for Galway European City of Culture 2020 and investment in Coole Park and Connemara National Park.
- Four new funds to stimulate renewal and investment in rural and urban areas, the environment and innovation from part of Project Ireland 2040:
- €2bn Urban Regeneration and Development Fund
- €1bn Rural Development Fund
- €500m Climate Action Fund
- €500m Disruptive Technologies Fund