The granting of planning permission for three more giant data centres in north Co Dublin illustrated the lack of consistency in the planning process, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has claimed.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said the decision by Fingal County Council to grant planning for three Amazon data centres was “revealing”, given the opposition and delays that farmers and food processors have encountered when seeking to expand their businesses.
McCormack said that, time and again, objections to farm-related projects had been encouraged and even financed by official or State-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs), even where the proposed projects were of environmental benefit.
It was profoundly frustrating to see multinational corporations being supported through the planning process, while Irish farmers and agri co-ops were actively obstructed at every stage when they came forward with development plans, McCormack claimed.
“When it’s data centres, it’s an ‘innocent till proven guilty’ attitude. But when it’s Irish farmers or Irish agri processors, it’s almost exactly the opposite: it’s ‘guilty until proven innocent’,” the ICMSA leader commented.
Questioned about the Fingal County Council decision, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan described data centres as a key component of Ireland’s infrastructure, despite grave concerns over the pressure they are putting on the State’s energy supply.
Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth, an organisation which opposed the Amazon planning application, was scathing of the decision.
'Threat' to supply
“It’s [the planning decision] a threat to our energy security, the security of our power system, it’s a threat to our pollution limits and, to be honest, it’s a threat to the credibility of this Government on climate,” Coughlan told RTÉ.
“The Government announced through EirGrid what they said was a moratorium on new data centres around Dublin because that’s where it’s particularly risky for the grid. This is driving a coach and horses through that.”
The 40 or so data centres currently operating in the country absorb around 18% of Ireland’s electricity supply. However, with 14 more expected to come on stream in the coming years, that figure is expected to grow to 30%.