Residents appeal Apple data centre plans

A computer-generated image of how the Apple development in Athenry would look

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.