The new President of the American Chamber of Commerce has said planning regulations need reform following the Athenry Apple data centre controversy.

Apple's plan to build an €850m data centre at Derrydonnell in Co Galway has been delayed by legal challenges.

Barry O'Sullivan said it's "too early" to say whether the delay has had an impact on Ireland's image.

However, he said there needs to be certainty on the timeline of decision making.

He said: "I think people who want to invest . . . it's about a certainty of when you will get an answer so you can plan for that and plan around that."

In November, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that data centres will in future be considered strategic infrastructure for planning purposes to allow projects to proceed through the planning phase faster.

Clare County Council has received 14 submissions from landowners and developers looking to build data centres in the county.

Last year, the council said it was seeking expressions of interests from "individuals, companies and partners" who could identify sites that could support the development of data centres in the region.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr O'Sullivan said Clare County Council is taking innovative steps in leading the economic development of their regions.

He said: "We see these investments as essential infrastructure for the future . . . like Ardnacrusha back in the 1920s. The data centres . . . are critical infrastructure for a digital economy over the next 20 to 30 years.

"Ireland has a choice, we either lead or follow."

Data centres are composed of large computer servers used to store information.

Ireland is seen as an attractive location for these digital facilities due to the country's cool climate, lack of earthquakes and connectivity.

Clare County Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling said it was mostly companies and private individuals who came forward with submissions.

The council has a number of criteria for applications including location of land, proximity to high voltage, telecommunications infrastructure, proximity to national network, planning, zoning of the land and experience in dealing with data centres.

Mr Dowling said a majority of applications came from areas surrounding Ennis and Shannon, in addition to two applications from west Clare.

Five of the submissions will be pursued and the council is currently finalising a panel, he said, adding, that the next stage would be to sit down and discuss ideas with the applicants with the hope of setting up a joint venture with them.

Clare Council Council's Economic Advisory Group came up with the idea of looking at housing data centres in the county and follows a search for sites by IDA Ireland across the country.

Mr Dowling said the council took the opportunity to test the market to see if there was any land potentially suitable for future for data centres in Clare.

He said Ennis and Shannon are strong locations due to the road networks and connectivity which makes the county attractive for development.

Mr Dowling said Clare needs development in relation to jobs and he would like to see the county competing nationally.

Mr O'Sullivan agreed said broadband and finishing off the motorway network are critically important if Ireland is going to compete globally.

When asked about the Athenry Apple data centre delay, Mr Dowling said it would not put the council off developing data centres in Co. Clare.

He said: "I wish the whole Athenry project very well going forward and one hopes that it'll advance appropriately."

However, the potential project could face opposition from local groups.

Environmental Activist and member of the Clare Environmental Network, Theresa O'Donohoe said she would be "concerned about the energy consumption of data centres".

She said they consume an "awful lot of power" and we need to look at the use of renewable energy.

Ms O'Donohoe said the council also needs to outline how the surplus heat from a data centre will be used.

She said: "We need our data centres. I'm all on for looking at solutions that bring us to the situation that we can actually provide the data centres but not have a major environmental impact."