South Dublin County Councillors have condemned the Irish Minister for Planning Peter Burke after he overturned the council’s decision to ban new data centers in the county.

Earlier this month, Minister of State for Planning Peter Burke told the council’s chief executive, Danny McLoughlin, that the councilors’ decision to make data centers a “not permitted” use in the new county development plan breached national and regional policy and must be reversed.

In March, People Before Profit Councillor Madeleine Johansson put forward an amendment to the County’s 2022-2028 Development Plan that would prevent further data centers from being developed in the county.

“There are more beneficial uses for land in Dublin, including more employment heavy industries or offices,” Johansson said at the time. South Dublin is home to around 30 data centers.

In reply to that amendment being adopted, the Office of the Planning Regulator told the council there was a “national objective” to promote Ireland as a sustainable international destination for ICT infrastructures such as data centers and should reverse the block.

The planning regulator said the council didn’t have “any strategic justification to support” and “lacked robust planning rationale for imposing a blanket restriction.”

“I am absolutely outraged by the decision of the Minister to overturn the moratorium which was agreed by councilors,” Johansson said this week. “This is an attack on local democracy and makes a mockery out of local decision making.”

Sinn Féin councilor Derren Ó Brádaigh said that the move by Miniter Burke was “undemocratic” and undermines local government.

“Earlier this year, councilors clearly expressed their preference to see a moratorium at the very least for the next six years, until more is known about the serious potential impacts of data centers on energy consumption, carbon emissions, and their immense strain on water and electricity structures.

“With the County Development Plan now made and coming into effect this week, the intervention by the Minister at the eleventh hour, is in my view, undemocratic and undermines the role of councilors, in the carefully considered making of the plan.”

Members of the People Before Profit party including Johansson this week gathered outside The Custom House in Dublin, where the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is based, to protest the decision by Burke.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin recently confirmed there will be no national moratorium on new data centers, saying that they were important to attracting investment in the country. The government recently published a revised statement on the role of data centers in Ireland’s enterprise strategy, saying facilities need to adhere to certain sustainability principles.

However, a de facto moratorium appears to be in operation since the turn of the year in Dublin after EirGrid said the grid in the capital was under strain, and no new data center applications are expected to be granted a grid connection before 2028.

Interxion (Digital Realty) paused plans for expansion in the area as a result, while Dataplex recently entered voluntary liquidation after EirGrid denied power contracts at two data center sites. Applications previously granted a connection before the ban came into force, estimated to be more than 1GW of developments, are still set to be built and connected.

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