Residents living near the proposed new Apple building in Athenry have appealed the decision to grant planning for the data centre at a Greenfield site.
The objectors cite traffic concerns, as well as the impact on badgers and bats, as reasons to halt the €850 million investment.
Galway County Council a fortnight ago gave the go-ahead to the multi-national giant to build a 30,000 square metres development at forest land owned by Coillte near Derrydonnell that will house its new data centre. The IDA has hailed the €850 million investment in Athenry as one of the biggest foreign direct investments (FDI) in the history of the state.
As well as construction jobs, the company has indicated it will employ 300 people once the plant is up and running. It had hoped to build the centre by 2017.
But residents have this week lodged an appeal to An Bórd Pleanála against the decision.
Noel and Patricia Heneghan Kelly of Toberroe and Mary Lindsay of Toberroe have both lodged appeals to the planning appeals board.
They objected to the development due to increased traffic and noise associated with construction traffic. They feared for the impact the development will have on a nearby private well, which is a source of water to nearby homes. The appellants also claimed there will be significant impacts on bats and badgers, which are protected species, living in the forest.
The planning appeals board will deliberate on the objections and issue its judgement by February of 2016.
Galway County Councillor Peter Feeney (FG) said everyone is entitled to object and he could understand why people living near it might be concerned. However, the Athenry area councillor said that Apple had addressed all of the concerns raised by residents, including traffic concerns, when it submitted additional information to the local authority during the planning application process.
He said that traffic along that road used to be far worse before the M6 motorway was built than what it will be like once Apple’s plant is finished.
“Once this building is built, you won’t be able to see it, you won’t be able to hear it, you won’t be able to smell it. It is on a 500 acres site of forest and it is hollowing out the middle of the forest and you won’t even know it is there,” he said.
Cllr Feeney said the vast majority of people in Athenry and County Galway welcomed the investment with open arms. It is building on the cluster of technology and pharmaceuticals companies that have set up in Galway City, and wil create further spin-off employment.
“This is the single biggest investment in the West of Ireland ever. It is big in its own right but it will also create huge spins offs. Apple opened in Cork 35 years ago with 100 jobs, now there are over 4,000 there. This can be hugely beneficial to the entire West of Ireland. If we are serious about creating a counter-balance to Dublin and if we are serious about saving rural Ireland that this is something we all have to support,” said Cllr Feeney.
He pointed out that the plant will have an outdoor education space and high quality walking trails. “It is a most welcome investment in Athenry and I have consistently welcomed it,” added Cllr Feeney.
Teenager caught with €20,000 worth of cannabis
A teenager was stopped and searched by Gardaí in Eyre Square on Monday evening, and found in possession of an estimated €20,000 worth of cannabis.
Members of the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit stopped the man, aged in his late teens, at around 6pm and searched him under the Misuse of Drugs Act. During the search the man was found in possession of a €20,000 of suspected cannabis herb. The drugs seized will be sent for forensic analysis.
He was arrested and detained at Garda Headquarters in Renmore and was released from custody this morning. A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Level 5 ‘lockdown’ restrictions from midnight Wednesday
‘Crass stupidity’ to allow Leisureland close
The looming threat of closure for Leisureland after Christmas amounts to “crass stupidity” and requires an urgent commitment for funding from Government, according to a local TD.
Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Galway City Tribune she had raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister of State for Local Government and he had expressed an openness to meeting with a delegation from City Hall in relation to the City Council-owned facility’s dire financial situation.
“It’s simply not acceptable that a public swimming pool would close when we have the Minister for Finance announcing a budget of €18 billion this week – that’s Monopoly money.
“We have €18 billion to dispense and the challenge is to do that in a way that ensures a basic level of services below which we cannot go, and that requires funding the local authority. The local authority is fundamental in any civilised society, as are the services it provides,” said the Independent Deputy.
Raising the issue in Leinster House, Deputy Connolly said that Leisureland was an excellent public facility that had been open since 1973 and had broke even for the last number of years, but had run into major funding shortfalls as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
“It is a fantastic swimming pool. I must declare a conflict of interest as I use it every weekend, It helps to keep me semi-sane and semi-fit.
“No public swimming pool makes money and few of them break even. This pool needed money due to Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by every public swimming pool in the country. The management in the City Council said it was not in a position to give it money and that the swimming pool would have to close,” said Deputy Connolly, adding that the decision had been made and staff were informed.
Due to public pressure and resistance from local councillors, the decision was reversed and €207,000 in funding had been provided by the Council Executive.
“However, it pointed out that the money was coming out of next year’s budget, so it could not continue, and it would not be in a position to fund it.
“I do not expect miracles, but I expect commitment from the Minister and the Government that, regardless of what happens, we are not going to close public swimming pools or public libraries. They are essential services,” said Deputy Connolly.
She said €2.5 million in funding had been made available for “swimming pools with public access” in the private sector as part of the Government’s July Stimulus package, but nothing for publicly-owned facilities.
“It is very ironic if we are going to keep private swimming pools open once they have some limited access to the public, while we close down the public swimming pools,” she added.
Responding, Minister Peter Burke said his Department was keeping spending and cash flow at local authorities under constant review and would continue to work with Galway City Council to address issues.
“My Department is engaging with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the financial challenges facing local authorities as a direct consequence of the pandemic, in terms of additional costs incurred as part of the local government response and decline in local authority income streams.
“I will do my very best with regard to the Deputy’s ask. I would be willing to meet a delegation from the City Council in connection with this issue. However, there are going to be significant asks emanating from this crisis. We are doing our very best to make what we have go as far as it can. It presents a major challenge,” said Minister Burke.