Fine Gael TD Joe Carey is confident that Clare will benefit from new planning legislation which was recently enacted to facilitate the provision of data centres as strategic infrastructure developments. 

Deputy Carey is aware of a proposal for a major data centre to be located in County Clare which has the potential to generate hundreds of permanent and construction jobs.

“I am aware of a proposal to provide a significant Data Centre in County Clare which is at a very advanced stage. This 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.

It’s my understanding that while this important piece of legislation has been enacted since July of this year, Section 49 has yet to be “commenced” meaning that it still has to come into effect. I have raised this matter with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and have been advised that it’s their intention to hold “workshops” with potential data centre providers prior to commencing this part of the Act. It’s anticipated that this will take place late this year or early next year.

“County 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.