The High Court has begun hearing arguments in relation to an attempt by objectors to a proposed new €850 million Apple data centre in Athenry, Co Galway to get permission to appeal the court's judgment to the Court of Appeal.
Earlier this month, the court ruled against an application from locals Allan Daly and Sinead Fitzpatrick and Dublin businessman Brian McDonagh that sought to have permission for the 500-acre development from An Bord Pleanala overturned.
Last week, the legal team for Mr Daly and Ms Fitzpatrick indicated they wished to appeal the court's decision to the Court of Appeal and would be seeking a certificate from the Commercial Court to do so.
Mr Justice McDermott began hearing arguments from both sides on the matter this morning.
In order to grant permission to appeal a High Court decision, the judge must be satisfied the issue must be of exceptional public importance and it must be in the public interest that it be pursued.
Senior Counsel Michael McDowell for the objectors put forward five points of law, which he claimed met that test.
These included a question around the extent to which interconnectivity or interdependence between different developments needs to be considered in determining whether or not a development is stand-alone or not.
This issue arises, he argued, because while Apple's application for planning permission was for a single data hall that would be constructed independently, it is part of an overall masterplan that could see seven more such buildings constructed in the future.
There is also the question, he submitted, of whether the application for a 20-acre grid connection to provide 240MW of power to the entire development can be given permission without considering the effects of the power demand?
The second point of law the objectors wish to appeal is whether when dealing with an application for a stand-alone project, in this case the single data hall, that forms part of a bigger master plan, is it lawful under Environmental Impact Assessment rules to assess the master plan when it comes to the issue of site locations but only the stand-alone project when it comes to other issues.
Mr McDowell also raised a point of law related to the legal extent of the definition of "as far as practicable" when it comes to assessing the first phase of a master plan, the full details of which may not yet be known.
He also put forward a question about the obligation of An Board Pleanáala to assess the development of a stand-alone project that is part of a master plan, in cases where it is unable to assess the master plan.
The final question being put forward as part of the proposed appeal is the obligation to identify the main effects of the development and the main measures to reduce or offset them under national and EU law.
However, Senior Counsel Nuala Butler for An Bord Pleanála rejected the arguments put forward by the objectors.
She said it was clear from the legislation that a point of law for the purposes of an appeal had to be exceptional and not commonplace, and the arguments put forward did not meet the test.
She said it was not enough that there was a point of law in question or that the objectors disagree with the court's judgment or that there is uncertainty around the law.
The court's judgment was not uncertain, she claimed, but there was just a lack of willingness to accept it.
She said An Bord Pleanála had considered the question of whether the first data centre could go ahead, whether or not the master plan proceeded.
She said the board has also clearly considered the master plan in relation to the selection of the site and its energy usage.
But she added that the board was not obliged to carry out an EIA on the master plan and never reached a point that it said it could not do one because it was not practicable.
Senior Counsel Rory Mulcahy for Apple said his clients supported the arguments put forward by An Bord Pleanála.
He said the objectors had not identified any error of law and the points of law being put forward for appeal needed to transcend the facts of this case, which they did not, he said.
A barrister for Mr McDonagh said he would also like to make some submissions to the court.
Mr Justice McDermott said he would hear those arguments when the case resumes tomorrow morning.