Jordan Norris

An Taisce have been criticised by a group of Fine Gael representatives following their decision to appeal a High Court ruling which granted planning permission for a €140m Glanbia cheese manufacturing plant at Belview.

A statement released by the Fine Gael representatives said that the move from An Taisce ‘does not cast Ireland in a good light’.

The plant, which is set to be a joint venture between Glanbia and Dutch firm Royal-A-Ware, has been continually objected to by An Taisce, who believe that the new facility and the increased agricultural activity needed to support it would increase carbon emissions and damage water quality in the area.

Planning permission for the plant at Belview Science and Technology Park, Gorteens, Slieverue was granted by An Bord Pleanála in June 2019, with hopes of it being operational by 2022.

The Glanbia plant at Belview

The Fine Gael representatives – TDs Charlie Flanagan, John Paul Phelan, David Stanton and Paul Kehoe, and Senators Garret Ahearn and John Cummins – have called on An Taisce to withdraw its appeal, saying that the fact they are taking the government policy and planning system to a second court is ‘beyond comprehension’.

“Glanbia’s proposed investment at Belview is a joint venture with a Dutch firm specialising in cheese making. This notice to appeal the decision made by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanala and now the High Court doesn’t cast Ireland in a good light locally, regionally or internationally – particularly at a time when we urgently need foreign direct investment and sustainable, well-paying jobs in our rural economy. How An Taisce (funded by the taxpayer) are taking the planning system and Government policy to a second court is beyond comprehension, as is how they are also objecting to housing, and forestry up and down the country.”

The group noted that timber supplies are running low nationwide as a direct consequence, and said that the government must look at An Taisce being taxpayer funded, given their constant opposition of government policy.

“The actions of An Taisce and the environmental lobby withdrawal from the 2030 food strategy illustrate their unwillingness to find compromise or to work with farmers to find realistic solutions. This small cohort has been allowed to hijack an entire industry. Which sector is next? They’re alienating the profession which has the most influence over the environment they claim they are protecting. It’s not too late for An Taisce to withdraw their latest appeal and to work with the planning system, rather than constantly against it. Surely a constructive conversation around a table could iron out with Glanbia and its partner any outstanding concerns. This is a major blow to the thousands of dairy farmers supplying Glanbia. They’re already facing supply restrictions from next year following the delay in developing this plant and a subsequent surplus of milk in the system.”

Glanbia Ireland noted the appeal with ‘deep disappointment’ in a statement by their chairman John Murphy.

“The combined impact of An Taisce objections to this project has been a two-year delay to 2024, but an appeal could delay the project even further. This would be bad for farmers, bad for rural communities and would hurt Ireland’s reputation internationally as a location for much-needed foreign direct investment. We passionately believe in this project, which is critical to our market diversification post Brexit and will support Ireland’s post-COVID recovery. The combined impact of An Taisce objections to this project has been a two-year delay to 2024, but an appeal could delay the project even further.”

Glanbia have reiterated their availability to meet with An Taisce to address their concerns by means of constructive dialogue.

It was concluded that the appeal ‘puts in jeopardy’ a project that would create hundreds of jobs, in a part of the country that has struggled.