Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, Anne Rabbitte has said Apple CEO’s Tim Cook’s refusal to confirm the future of the Apple Data centre in Athenry underlines the need for planning changes to stream line such critical projects.

Deputy Rabbitte published a bill to fast-track the planning process for large-scale IT infrastructural projects, such as data centres in October. Uncertainty over the project has grown following Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook which did not result in confirmation over the future of the proposed data centre in Athenry.

“The ‘Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) (Amendment) Bill 2017’ seeks to ensure Ireland’s regulatory framework does not deter future investment and jobs growth. The Bill seeks to enable Irish communities to take advantage of the economic opportunities associated with large-scale IT infrastructural projects.

“The mounting uncertainty is deeply disappointing for the people of Athenry. We need to ensure this type of situation is avoided in the future. The bill I brought in last month seeks to change the strategic planning process to allow data centres and other large-scale IT infrastructure projects to access a fast-tracked planning process.

“We live in an increasingly competitive global environment. Ireland is one of many nations competing to secure high-quality job investment by major international companies.

“The long-running saga to get planning approval for the €850m Apple data centre in Athenry is very concerning. The people of Athenry, Galway and beyond have come out in force firmly behind this project.

“This is a fantastic project, which will be fully powered by renewable energy and provide 300 jobs in construction and at least a hundred full-time jobs when the facility becomes operational.

“Balanced regional development is vital in order to bring sustainable growth to all parts of Ireland. Regrettably, serial objectors are holding back progress on this by using current planning laws to prevent approval for this and other data centre projects.

“Ireland needs to send out a clear message to foreign direct investors that we are open for business. Planning laws must not deter potential investors from Irish shores.

“This Bill seeks to accelerate the planning approval process for such critical projects that will bring social, economic and environmental benefits to communities across Ireland,” concluded Rabbitte.

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