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Artist's impression of the proposed Ennis data centre

Plans for €1.2bn Clare data centre on hold as Council seeks further information

A DECISION on planning permission for the construction of a €1.2 billion data centre campus in Ennis has been put on hold as Clare County Council has sought further information on the development.

In an extensive 11-page correspondence with developers Art Data Centres Ltd, Clare County Council have stated, “It is considered that the information submitted with this application is insufficient to enable the planning authority make a complete planning assessment of the proposal.”

The authority outlines all documentation submitted with the application has been considered and assessed including the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and the Natura Impact Statement.

“In order to complete the assessment of the direct and indirect effects on the environment of the proposed development the planning authority requires the submission of the further information,” the planning authority said.

Before making a decision on the plans further details on the project have been sought by the council under a number of headings including: potential project splitting; drainage, water supply and flood risk; expansion of the water main and culvert; biodiversity; residential and commercial amenity; movement and access; consideration of alternatives; major accidents and other items.

Among the concerns raised are fears that planned works could lead to an increase in flooding at the Aughavaddy Bridge during storms. The application proposes the laying of a new water main from the site along the R352 to connect with the existing water main at the junction of the Tulla Road and Millbank Road.

“This route has experienced multiple excavations and installations off various utilities and will require the water main to traverse the Aughavaddy Bridge,” the planning authority stated, requesting the submission of a survey on the effects of the installation and the ability of the bridge to convey the flow of the Gaurus river during storm events.

“The Aughavaddy Bridge has a history of bottle neck for the flow of the Gaurus river,” the authority pointed out, adding there are “concerns that the inclusion of another pipeline may increase the likelihood of flooding event at this location during storm events.”

The developers have been asked to address this issue and consider an alternative route or an upgrade of the existing bridge to eliminate the bottle neck.

Under the heading of potential project splitting, the planning authority notes that the connection of the data centre facility with various internet provider networks may require additional ground-works.

“These elements would appear to form key components of the overall project and as such cannot be seen as separate or isolated elements. These elements have not been included in the assessment contained within the various planning and environmental reports nor have they been considered by the EIAR,” the further information request outlines.

The authority has advised that the entire site which contains the key elements of the development such as water mains connections, various internet providers etc, together with each of the output routes or elements should be assessed as part of one overall assessment both in terms of direct / indirect impacts coupled with cumulative effects and residual effects.

Other documentation sought from the developers includes an outline of potential alternative locations including the use of existing brownfield sites.

The planning authority has noted that excess heat from the proposal “may provide an opportunity for the provision of a district heating system” for the local area.

A statement on whether full and comprehensive consideration has been given to the provision of such a system has been requested.

The developers have six months to respond to these and other items which have been requested by the planning authority before a decision can be made on whether or not to give the proposal the go-ahead.

Art Data Centres Limited has applied for 10-year planning permission for the development of the site in the townlands of Tooreen, Cahernalough, Knockanean, Ballymacahill, Muckinish, and Rosslevan, Tulla Road, Ennis.

The data centre campus, it is claimed, will create 250 data centre jobs, 1,200 construction jobs and 600 induced jobs in support services if granted planning permission.

More than 50 submissions have been received by Clare County Council in relation to the proposal. Future Proof Clare, Extinction Rebellion Clare, the Clare Environment Network, Friends of the Irish Environment, Environmental Trust Ireland and Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe are among those voicing concerns about the data centre plans.

If given the go-ahead the new Ennis data centre campus, identified by Clare County Council as a key pillar of the Ennis 2040 Economic Plan for the area, will contain a vertical farm and six data halls designed on a flexible and modular basis, covering 145 acres/1.3 million sq ft. 

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