Fine Gael TD Joe Carey has asked Clare County Council to ensure there is no delay in facilitating a planning application for a one million square foot data centre on the outskirts of Ennis that will result in the creation of more than 2,000 permanent, ancillary and construction jobs.

Following confirmation from the council that it is seeking to amend the county development plan to facilitate the development on a 51 hectare site close to the Tulla Road (exit 13) junction on the M18 motorway, Deputy Carey said that he was actively engaged in promoting the project at Government level.

The Clare TD, who has been pressing for the enactment of new planning legislation to facilitate the provision of data centres as strategic infrastructure developments, said he understands that there will be 300 permanent jobs at the data centre with up to 800 ancillary jobs in high value contract and maintenance roles.

It is estimated that 1,100 construction workers will be involved in the development of the data centre over a four year period.

“This latest development follows a call from Clare County Council to local landowners and developers to identity sites that could be used to build data centres in the County.

“We are all very much aware of the lengthy planning difficulties which ultimately led to the demise of the €850 million Apple data centre in Athenry. By recognising data centres as strategic infrastructure developments in section 49 of the newly enacted Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018, planning applications for the development of new data centres will now be lodged directly with An Board Plenála. 

“This new streamlined planning approach will lead to speedier planning decisions,” he explained. 

“Clare’s climate makes it cheaper for data centre operators to cool the large network of computer servers they use to store information. Other factors in Clare’s favour include direct access to European Union markets and good air travel connectivity through Shannon Airport.

“Data centres are central to the digital economy. They contribute to job creation and generate significant added economic benefit by providing a range of services to other firms that undertake production, research and development, marketing, sales, service, and support activities in locations with no physical/geographic connection to the data centre. 

“As large consumers of electricity, data centres pose particular challenges to the future planning and operation of a sustainable power system. I have been assured that the Government recognises these challenges and will take steps to mitigate them. These include a range of measures to promote regional options for data centre investment and minimising the need for additional grid infrastructure. 

“A balance will have to be maintained between environmental considerations and the longer term economic impact of such a significant investment,” Deputy Carey concluded.