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Fast-track planning for data centres

Tech giants will be able to get fast-track planning permission for data centres under processes being developed by the Department of Enterprise.

The Government is devising laws to prevent a repeat of the controversy that had led to severe delays to a proposed €850m project in Athenry, Co Galway.

Apple has reportedly warned officials the investment will be put at risk if there are any further hiccups. The company first revealed plans for the data centre in February 2015, but has faced significant opposition.

An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission last year – but this was the subject of a judicial review on environmental grounds following appeals by local residents and a landowner. A High Court ruling is due to be delivered on October 12.

Now Data Protection Minister Pat Breen has said every effort will be made “to ensure Ireland remains an attractive investment option for multinationals seeking to construct data centres here”.

He is examining legislative options that could lead to a more efficient planning system for future projects.

“In any planning procedure, all sides with input to a proposed project must be respected and listened to before a final decision is made. However, there is no reason why this process cannot happen at a quicker pace while respecting all contributions to a planned project,” Mr Breen said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted Apple remains committed to the Athenry development despite the delays. The company had expected the project to be finished this year.

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