Apple to press ahead with centre amid warnings that future investments threatened by planning delays

Apple has reassured the Irish Government that it intends to go ahead with plans for an €850m data centre in Co Galway despite frustration over the country’s planning laws.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail today that the company has reaffirmed its commitment to go ahead with the project.

He warned, however, that planning and judicial delays could undermine future investment by the company or other multinationals.

Apple had expected the project, which would be one of the biggest-ever in the west of Ireland, to be finished this year.

It has been delayed because of a judicial review of An Bord Pleanala’s decision in 2016 to approve the project.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail, on the first day back after the summer break, that he met recently with the vice-president of Apple and she reaffirmed the company’s commitment to go ahead with the project.

He added: "They did make it very clear to me that they are frustrated at planning delays and judicial delays, and while that will not affect this project, it will, of course, colour decisions about future investments.

"We are very keen to see this project go ahead. I acknowledge that delays such as these do undermine the case for future investment and we do intend to act on it."

Noel Grealish TD said he was concerned the country was "sending out a signal to other large multinational companies looking for a European base that planning in Ireland can be mired by delays and large infrastructure projects can be held up for years on the back of minor objections".

He added that multinational companies might now bypass Ireland.

There have been concerns the delays could jeopardise the entire Apple project.

The company has already finished work on a similar data centre in Denmark which was announced at the same time as the Irish investment in 2015.

The Danish centre is due to be operational by the end of this year while construction has yet to begin at the site in Athenry.

Apple has confirmed plans to build a second data centre in Denmark.

While the second Danish centre will be operational in 2019, the Irish project is still facing objections from three people because the 166,000 sq m centre is to be built in the middle of Derrydonnell forest on the outskirts of Athenry.

In Ireland, third parties have the right to appeal Bord Pleanala’s decisions by seeking a judicial review.

In August Chambers Ireland warned the government that the planning appeals process needed to be fundamentally overhauled to protect inward investment and the country’s competitiveness. The business group cited the Apple project as an example.

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