*Cllr Johnny Flynn. Photograph: Eamon Ward

ENNIS COUNCILLOR, Johnny Flynn has resigned from the Board of Ennis 2040 DAC.

On Tuesday morning, Cllr Flynn (FG) announced that he was stepping down from the board of the company tasked with implementing the economic and social strategy for the county town.

With the Ennis Data Centre listed as one of the nine transformational sites under Ennis 2040, Cllr Flynn confirmed that he had submitted an objection to An Bord Pleanála following Clare County Council’s decision to give the green light.

He told the September meeting of the Ennis Municipal District that he would be writing to the Chair of the Ennis 2040 DAC, Gerry Cahill informing him of his decision to step down. “One of its transformative projects was the Data Centre, I have lodged an appeal based on planning conditions which are not appropriate to discuss in this meeting”.

Cllr Flynn said that he wished everyone involved with the strategy the very best of luck and pinpointed the Ennis Wetlands as a project he was particularly excited about. The Ennis representative tried to nominate his party colleague, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) to sit on the board in his absence but this attempt was rebuffed.

Mayor of the Ennis MD, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) seemed annoyed that her fellow councillor made the announcement at a public meeting rather than an in-camera gathering. “I’m surprised you’re bringing this up in this mode, I don’t think it’s the appropriate avenue”. She said his replacement to the Board will be done “in an appropriate forum”.

Along with Cllr Flynn, Cllr Colleran Molloy and Cllr Ann Norton (IND) sat on the Board along with Chairman, Gerry Cahill, Liam Conneally who is the Director of Economic Development with Clare County Council, the Council’s Director of Finance and Support Services Noeleen Fitzgerald, founder of TTM Healthcare Group Brian Crowley, CEO of the Irish Centre of Business Excellence (ICBE) Linda Barron, AIB’s Kieran Considine, Ennis 2040 COO Kevin Corrigan and Ennis 2040 DAC administrator Susan Lenane.

In a 4,500 word submission to the planning appeals board, Cllr Flynn admitted he would be in favour of the development of the Data Centre at the site subject to it being powered by green low carbon energy with near zero greenhouse gas emissions, protection of air quality, biodiversity and environment “to best international standards”, resolving energy grid, energy security, water, flooding and road safety risks to best standards.

Six grounds of appeal were included by the former Mayor of Ennis – flood risk management, existing road infrastructure, existing water wastewater and water reservoir infrastructure, non-compliance with Variation 1 of the County Development Plan 2017-2023, lack of compliance with Clare Local Economic and Community Plan (LECP) 2016-2021 and lack of compliance with the volume on Clare’s Renewable Energy Strategy in the County Development Plan.

He explained that the background to his appeal was based on the engagement over the past four years. In January 2019, he lodged a submission with the County Council regarding a variation to the County Development Plan 2017-2023 at Toureen in Ennis on the absence of mitigation measures on the potential to increase greenhouse gas emissions. He followed this up by making a submission to the planning application in August 2021.

Downstream flooding at M18, R352 at Aughavaddy Bridge and Gaurus Bridge and at adjacent residences along the R352, road safety at junction 13 of the M18, the R352 junctions at Ballymachill Cross and Corrovorrin were among areas of concern to the Tulla Rd resident. He also felt adequate buffer zones to existing residences and business to prevent noise pollution was needed along with an upgrade in capacity to Clonroadmore Waste Water Treatment Plant and Drumcliffe Water Treatment Plant and in particular the Water storage reservoir capacity. The addition of a target for green energy sources to be used primarily to achieve low carbon status was also recommended by Cllr Flynn.

He stated, “I believe that the proposed planning permission for Ennis Data Centre does not deal with the bulk of my serious reservations”.

In his submission, Cllr Flynn noted that the Data Centre would have an energy use and consumption of 200MW which is made up of 80MW from the National Electricity Grid and 120MW to be generated on site by burning fossil fuel “which could result annually in up to 650,000 additional annual tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions”. He asked for the applicants to outline the greenhouse gas emissions of the proposed 120 MW fossil fueled operation of the proposed Data Centre and to design an alternative sustainable green low carbon primary energy model.

Objectives and targets of the Clare Local Economic & Community Plan (LECP) 2016-2021 are not followed, he maintained. Similarly, Cllr Flynn said the development was “not in compliance with either Chapter 18 of Volume 1 and of the Volume 6 (Clare Renewable Energy Strategy (RES) 2017-2023) of the County Development Plan (CDP) 2017-2023”.

Flooding has previously occurred on the site of the development, the initial planning application acknowledged. Page 24 of The John Spain Associates (JSA), Chartered Town Planners and Chartered Surveyors, ‘Planning Report’ (PR) states a site specific Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) was carried out by Clifton Scannell Emerson Associates on behalf of the applicants. Cllr Flynn said the assessment “indicates that it does not seem to cover the full extent of proposed development red line boundary as shown on planning application drawings”.

Traffic activity near the site during construction was also noted by Cllr Flynn. In the six and a half year estimated construction timeframe, an estimated 53,396 HGV movements to and from the site will be generated during the construction of the Art Data Centre, he highlighted. Half of this tally (23,276) is set to be in the first phase of the development alone. “The busiest period is forecast to be month fourteen, when it is estimated that 115 HGV movements will require to travel to/from the site during one day , resulting in twelve trips per hour , or on average one load in and out of the site every five minutes”.

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