South Dublin Council ban on further data centres being challenged in High Court

The data centre operator claims the ban contravenes national and regional policy on data centres, was unreasonable and irrational.

A HIGH COURT challenge has been brought against South Dublin County Council’s decision to place a ban on any further data centres being built in its function area during the lifetime of its 2022 to 2028 development plan.

The judicial review action has been brought by Echelon DC Holdings Limited, which develops and owns data centres.

The challenge arises following a vote by the council’s elected members last June to amend its current development plan to include a prohibition on any further data centres being built within its functional area.

In a motion tabled by the council’s People Before Profit members the council voted to ban data centres and designate as being no permitted under any zoning on the grounds that there is no capacity for further data centres in the South Dublin area.

Represented by Neil Steen SC Echelon claims the ban is unlawful and should be set aside.

The ban contravenes national and regional policy on data centres, was unreasonable, irrational, and breach various constitutional rights, it is claimed.

Counsel told the court that the amendment to the plan was opposed by the Council’s Chief Executive, who had recommended that it remained unchanged from the previous development plan, namely that the plan should consider data centres as being “open for consideration.”

The Office of the Planning Regulator had also said that it believed the ban should not be contained in the development plan as it was inconsistent with Regional Policy Objectives and Spatial and Economic Strategies for the Midlands and East Regions.

The court also heard that the Minister for Local Government and Planning had late last month indicated to the Council that a decision indicating that the ban on data centres contained in the plan may not be allowed to stand.

This was due to the ban being inconsistent with various national and regional policies and objectives that promotes Ireland as a sustainable destination for data centres, and lacks a appropriate evidential basis.

The Minister has invited parties to make submissions before any final decision is made.

Echelon, which develops, owns and operates data centres from various locations claims that if the ban is let stand it will prejudice businesses it operates in the South Co Dublin area.

It owns lands in Clondalkin and Newcastle Co. Dublin which are within the council’s functional area which are the subject of planning permissions for data centre development.

It also has plans to expand the data centres at these locations in due course.

In its action Echelon seeks an order quashing the council’s decision of 22 June last to designate data centres as being “not permitted” under zoning objectives in its development plan.

It also seeks an order directing the council to class data centres as being “open for consideration” under the various zoning objectives contained in the development plan.

It further seeks an order quashing certain amendments made to the development plan, which Echelon says should be removed.

The matter was mentioned before Ms Justice Carmel Stewart, during today’s vacation sitting of the High Court, who noted that the Minister may ultimately make a decision that could render the action moot.

In the circumstances the judge decided to adjourn the action to a date in November.

Aodhan O Faolain