Farmer’s ‘unbuttoned complaints’ delayed Intel plant expansion for more than three years, judge says

Concerns included ‘killer robots’, the political establishment and US military intelligence, High Court hears

A farmer delayed planning permission for the expansion of the Intel plant in Kildare for more than three years based on “unbuttoned complaints about a wide variety of actors” including “killer robots” and US military intelligence, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said Thomas Reid, who owns 74 acres (29.9 hectares) next to the Intel computer chip manufacturing plant in Leixlip in Co Kildare, had put in an original appeal to the expansion of the facility that made a mockery of the procedures for evaluating planning and led to a delay in final permission for the plan between July 2020 and now.

The judge made the comments when he dismissed Mr Reid’s latest objection to a 2020 application from Intel to modify previous 2017 and 2019 planning permissions for alterations and reconfigurations which would result in increasing the overall height of buildings at the plant from three to six metres along with other alterations.

Mr Reid had previously objected to planning applications that went through the courts, which were also dismissed. He did win a landmark Supreme Court case in 2015 which prevented the use of compulsory purchase orders to acquire his farm for Intel expansion.


His appeal to An Bord Pleanála over the latest 2020 application was, Mr Justice Humphreys said, “an idiosyncratic document consisting of six handwritten pages in block capitals together with some attachments”.

The judge said much of this material deals with matters not obviously relevant to planning law including a printout of a news article entitled “Amazon, Microsoft and Intel may be putting world at risk through killer robot developments, study [says]” and of another article about data centres consuming huge amounts of electricity.

He said Mr Reid made other claims in his appeal including one that his request for oral hearings to An Bord Pleanála had been “blocked” by the US military intelligence agency.

He also alleged the “political establishment played their part”, that there was “rigging” of environmental assessments in a number of cases, and that there was a “major concealment” of relevant information.

When the board granted permission, Mr Reid brought a High Court challenge which did not repeat those claims but concentrated primarily on planning and EU law. The board opposed the challenge and Intel was a notice party.

Mr Justice Humphreys said he was dismissing all of the challenge with the exception that Mr Reid was entitled to a declaration that the board failed to make its decision available to the public by the required legal means for an eight-month period.

In relation to the rest of the case, the judge said Mr Reid’s lawyers “expended admirable efforts in trying to erect a towering legal superstructure of objection on the applicant’s notice of appeal, but that construction is ultimately founded on sand”.

It collapsed for various reasons, not least because, on certain issues, the critical points were not put before the board, he said.

He also said the “elaborate-sounding confection of legal points launched in this case” over the validity of the permission bore no resemblance whatsoever to Mr Reid’s original notice of appeal to the board.

While certain types of afterthought are legally permissible, “the rest of it makes a mockery of the procedures for evaluating planning considerations under the 2000 Act”.

By virtue of that original six-page handwritten appeal, which failed to contain any meaningful relevant specifics, and by virtue of the consequent High Court challenge, Mr Reid “succeeded in delaying the finality of the permission for a period from July 31st, 2020, to today’s date”, he said.

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