The tech company was first awarded planning permission for the development in 2016, but two years later in 2018 it decided it would not proceed after protracted legal challenges delayed its start. That permission was due to expire in September of last year and so Apple, which at that time was still seeking a buyer for the site, applied to the council for a five-year extension. The council granted the application in August of last year, but it was again challenged in the High Court by local resident Allan Daly, who had been involved in the earlier legal action.
A Galway County Council decision last year to allow an extension to the planning permission granted to Apple to build a data centre on lands in Athenry Co Galway has been quashed by the High Court. The move means that should Apple wish to proceed with the plan it would now have to make a completely fresh application for planning permission for the facility on the site at Derrydonnell Woods, as its earlier permission has now expired. However, the company previously stated in 2018 that it no longer planned to build the €850m facility and while it declined to comment on the High Court’s order, it is understood its position on the project has not changed.
They also claimed that the council had not provided any reason for its decision to grant the planning permission extension and Apple had not properly implemented the EU Habitats Directive. They also argued that the council’s decision last year was made under legislation that didn’t allow for the applicant or the public to engage or make submissions on an application for an extension of duration of planning permission. As a result, observation letters that they submitted to the council about the plan to extend the planning permission were rejected without being considered.
A separate challenge was also initiated by the non-governmental organisation, Eco-Advocacy. The parties have confirmed that in the last fortnight the High Court agreed to issue an order quashing the council’s permission granting the 5-year extension and that written order has now been issued. The ruling was made with the consent of lawyers for both the council and the State. The objectors had argued that the council had failed to assess the implications of extending the permission which it was obliged to under EU law.
This they argued was contrary to EU directives aimed at ensuring public participation in such processes. Following the county council’s decision, the legislation was subsequently amended to reflect the requirements for consultation under the directive. But at that point the timeframe for Apple to submit a new application for an extension of the duration of the original planning permission had expired. The situation means that the only option available to Apple now, were it to wish to revive its plans for a data centre on the site, would be to submit a totally new application.