A Microsoft data center has led to a heated conflict between the municipality of Hollands Kroon and the province of Noord-Holland. The latter states that it is not the municipality but the province that is responsible for approving the construction of the complex.
The planned data center on the Agriport A7 industrial estate is therefore illegal, according to the province, which has taken to court. The judge must clarify who is right. In addition, the province starts an enforcement procedure against Microsoft.
The arrival of data centers is controversial because they use a lot of energy. Local residents complain that the computer stables consume a lot of the sustainably generated electricity and that more and more wind turbines are therefore needed. These are seen as an adverse effect on the landscape and a source of nuisance for local residents.
After allegations against Hollands Kroon about the possibly wrongly issued permit, the province has ordered State Attorney Pels Rijcken to find out who is responsible for issuing the necessary environmental permit. He came to the conclusion that there are insufficient leads to make a statement.
The municipality of Hollands Kroon maintains the position that it is authorized to issue the permit and says on Thursday that it was surprised by the step taken by the province. "Two weeks ago, we sent out another message announcing that we are working together on a solution," said a spokesman. The municipality says it is not yet able to respond substantively, because it has not yet received the letter.
Years of legal battle
It is not a simple matter, says Professor of Public Administration Michiel de Vries of Radboud University. "Who is right? Nobody knows". According to De Vries, both parties are partly engaged in a war of words in which the question is how, for example, the use of emergency generators should be viewed. "Are they only used as an emergency supply, or are they part of the power supply?" There are also uncertainties about the discharge of cooling water into the IJsselmeer, which is regarded locally as a 'Natura 2000' area (a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union).
De Vries does not dare to predict who is right, "but given the size of the complex, I suspect that the province will deal with the environmental permit". The professor foresees a long legal battle that will eventually end with the Council of State. "In the worst case, the building may have to move."
If that happens, Microsoft might sue the municipality of Hollands Kroon for damages. Microsoft has announced that it is in talks with all parties and that it cannot respond for this reason. The tech company says it wants to continue to comply with laws and regulations and to take into account "the valuable input of the local community".