Ireland's Galway County Council has granted a five-year planning permission extension for Apple's Athenry data center.

The facility was canceled in 2019, following multiple delays. But Apple in June quietly asked to extend the site's planning permission to November 2026.

Support for Apple's Galway data center
Locals marched in support of, and against, the data center – Pól O'Cathain

Apple first bought the land for approximately $15 million in 2014, gaining its first planning permission a year later.

Then things started slowing down. Locals, environmentalists, and a rival developer that wanted to build a data center of his own kept a steady stream of challenges that kept the facility in the courts.

More than 20 appeals were lodged after Galway County Council permitted the project. Objectors said the project would increase noise, pollution, traffic, and risk of flooding, and harm local populations of bats and badgers. Multiple hearings were held.

In August 2016, planning authority An Bord Pleanála approved the data center, as well as an electrical substation, but that decision too was challenged.

A shortage of judges in the nation delayed things further. As did Hurricane Ophelia, which caused all the courts to be closed, creating a backlog.

Even as Apple won the cases, appeals kept bringing the case back to the Irish planning board (An Bord Pleanála), the Commercial Courts, and even the High Court.

In late 2017, Ireland’s then state head, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, spoke to Apple CEO Tim Cook in an attempt to get the €850 million ($1bn) project back on track.

"We really impressed upon them very strongly how much the government is behind this project, how we will do anything that is within our power to facilitate it, and how the people of Galway and Athenry in particular really want it to happen," he said.

But it was not enough - the following year, Apple shelved the project, and put the land up for sale in 2019.

It is now not exactly clear what Apple has planned with the site. It has not successfully sold the land, but could simply be seeking planning permission to make the land more valuable to a potential acquirer.

“Due to delays associated with the judicial processes initiated after the relevant planning consent issued and, more recently, the complications over the last year... arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, the subject development has not been brought to fruition,” Apple's application said.

“This extension... is being sought in order to provide adequate time to facilitate the provision of the subject development. It is the intention that the project will be undertaken as soon as practicable once suitable developers are identified.

“It is anticipated the development will be completed within the extension period sought.”

The company was not immediately available for comment.

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