US tech giant Apple announced it had shelved plans to build an 850-million-euro ($1.0-billion) data center in Ireland over a court battle with conservationists who were seeking to preserve a forest.
"Several years ago we applied to build a data center at Athenry. Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data center," the company said in a statement. "While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow."
The Silicon Valley giant believed it had gotten the green light in October when a High Court judge dismissed appeals brought by three campaigners, who were concerned about the environmental impact of the project, which was to occupy nearly 166,000 square meters, or roughly 40 Premier League football pitches, in County Galway, west Ireland.
However, the campaigners won last week their Supreme Court bid for their appeal to be heard, delaying the process even further. Apple said it was "proud of the many contributions we make" to the Irish economy, and insisted it was still "deeply committed to our employees and customers" in Ireland.
The project, which was first announced three years ago, would have been the biggest private investment in western Ireland. Apple had promised to hide the center in the forest, make good any damage done and use renewable energy to power the center. Planning approval was quickly granted but objections were filed on environmental grounds.
The US firm met five key concerns in 2016, but were held up again by appeals from three local residents, raising doubts that it would ever be approved. Ireland believes the project would have create around 300 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs.
Apple, which has its European headquarters based in the southern Irish city of Cork, has been at loggerheads with the EU over its tax arrangements with Ireland. The European Commission has ordered the firm to pay Ireland 13 billion euros ($16 billion) in back taxes as it has said the favorable tax terms amounted to state aid.