RTÉ Brainstorm: Why is the Irish planning system so complex?

A new RTÉ Brainstorm article by Whitaker Institute member Rónán Kennedy explores the complexities of the Irish planning system, highlighted by the case of the Apple data centre in Athenry.

Why is the Irish planning system so complex?

The site at Athenry, Co Galway which was due to host Apple's data centre

Opinion: as highlighted by the saga of the Apple data centre in Athenry, Ireland’s planning process can be slow, torturous and complex for all involved

One of the cases which the Supreme Court is due to hear this week during its sitting at NUI Galway is an appeal against the granting of planning permission to Apple for the construction of a data centre in Athenry. It is well known that the delays with this permission led Apple to drop this project. As the appeal arises from the extent to which Irish planning law is open to public participation, there may be further mis-guided pressure to change this when it emerges back into public view.

Unusually in Europe and worldwide, the Irish planning system allows anyone, whether or not they have some tangible interest in the locality (such as owning neighbouring land), to make submissions or observations on a planning application. The time limits for doing so are relatively tight, but many individuals and non-governmental organisations get involved. European environmental law also requires that developments that will have a “significant impact on the environment” are subject to a process of environmental impact assessment (EIA). These procedural requirements are often criticised as leading to delay, and this has particularly been the case in the fall-out from the Apple data centre debacle.

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