Archaeological works at ‘colossal’ data centre site are unauthorised, residents claim

ireland
Archaeological Works At ‘Colossal’ Data Centre Site Are Unauthorised, Residents Claim Archaeological Works At ‘Colossal’ Data Centre Site Are Unauthorised, Residents Claim
The High Court heard unauthorised works have been carried out on the land under the guise of archaeological tests and normal agricultural clearance.
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High Court reporters

The High Court is being asked to declare as unauthorised what are claimed to have been archaeological and agricultural clearing works on lands for what has been described as "a colossal" data centre in Co Meath.

EngineNode Ltd have been granted permission by An Bord Pleanála for a 24.5 hectare data centre at Bracetown and Gunnocks, north of Clonee, which is next to the home and stables of Mannix Coyne and his family.

EngineNode has an option to buy the land from the existing owners, the Ward family, who farm the land and gave permission for the planning application to be lodged by the developer.

Mr Coyne and his daughter, Amy want the court to quash the planning permission.

They say, however, that even though their legal challenge to that permission has yet to be dealt with, unauthorised works have been carried out on the land under the guise of archaeological tests and normal agricultural clearance.

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They have asked the court for an order preventing any further works pending the hearing of their challenge, a declaration that the works that have been carried out so far are unauthorised and that the land should be restored.

Trenches

They say EngineNode has dug 206 trenches, more than 8 kilometres long over some 3.6 acres. They say that not only have there been alleged archaeological works, but there has been major clearance and drilling works on the land.

EngineNode strongly denies the claims and argues the Coynes' application is an abuse of process.

It says no major excavation works have been carried out and those that have been are not unauthorised.

It says the archaeological testing works have been carried out in compliance with all regulations and in consultation with the National Monuments Service. It also says the works have been completed and reinstatement works have been carried out.

The court heard the Ward family has said that any hedge cutting, ditch draining and similar works have been carried out by them as part and parcel of normal agricultural activities. A badger sett on the land, which is legally protected, has not been disturbed, the court also heard.

If 8km of trenches are just a number of holes, then the Atlantic Ocean is just water

On Tuesday, Peter Bland SC, for the Coynes, told Mr Justice Anthony Barr the EngineNode plan includes the construction of four "colossal" two-storey data storage buildings.

His clients believe EngineNode has "jumped the gun" in carrying out certain works before the legal challenge to the planning permission is dealt with. It was also in circumstances where, under the July 2021 Bord Pleanála permission, certain conditions had to be met before any work could be carried out, he said.

While every developer seeks to "steal a march" when it comes to planning permission, in this case the developer did not get away with it because the Coynes could see what was happening and that the developer appeared to be ploughing ahead regardless, he said.

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Counsel said part of EngineNode's defence was to minimise the scope of the works that had been done as just "digging and refilling of a number of holes".

"If 8km of trenches are just a number of holes, then the Atlantic Ocean is just water", Mr Bland said.

The hearing continues.

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