The modelling of the continued operation of Abbott Ireland's infant formula production plant in Co Monaghan on the basis of now existing milk supply is no longer tenable.
That is according to An Taisce which has appealed to An Bord Pleanala a grant of planning permission by Monaghan Co Council for an expansion of the Cootehill plant.
The plant opened in 1975 and today directly employs 376 staff and indirectly employs another 100.
Documents lodged with the Abbott Ireland application state that the Abbott facility has the capacity for 90m lbs of infant formula annually from 153m gallons of milk.
AWN Consulting state that the proposed facility expansion and packaging alterations will enable the Abbott facility to pack 40m lbs of the same product into flexible pouches annually, with the remaining 50m lbs of the same product packed in metal cans as per current practices.
The planning consultants point out that “as such the proposed development does not constitute an increase in capacity for the facility but the diversification of existing lines for the same product”.
The plans state that the proposed development will not result in an increase in milk intake but instead the proposed development is intended to facilitate the broadening of Abbott Ireland’s packaging format capabilities.
The consultants for Abbott Ireland state that there will be no increase in any emissions currently arising from the existing facility as a result of the proposed development, nor will there be the introduction of any new emissions.
The revamped plant will not result in additional employee numbers though up to 60 personnel will be engaged in constructing the new buildings across a two-year period.
However, in the An Taisce appeal, Head of Advocacy, Ian Lumley contends that “the proposed development is a significant alteration of the permitted facility, and we have grave concerns regarding the provision of the extension within the existing site and against the background of the surrounding environment, both locally and transboundary”.
Mr Lumley further contends that "in this case, the application is dependent on continuing levels of bovine milk production from a supply in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, which faces multiple sustainability incompatibilities".
Mr Lumley also pointed out that the application "raises significant considerations, including transboundary impact under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive due to the lack of assessment of the expansion of development and operating capacity that has occurred over the last 20 years”.
Mr Lumley states that "all dairy processing facilities need to reduce direct and indirect impacts in upstream milk supply, and resource consumption to meet climate action, biodiversity and sustainable land use production and diversification to more plant based production".
"The issue of sustainable food production applies to infant nutrition as much as other milk processing production streams. Both a range of UN agencies and the World Health Organisation advocate for the advancing of enhanced support for breastfeeding as the optimal source of infant nutrition".
Mr Lumley states that "it is incumbent that An Bord Pleanala direct the applicant to submit both remedial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and EIA for ongoing and proposed revised development so that the full impacts of the existing and ongoing development on the surrounding environment can be properly understood".
Abbott Ireland has lodged the plans after a High Court judicial review concerning a previous An Bord Pleanala grant of permission for an expansion of the agri-food plant. In the High Court last week, it was told that An Bord Pleanala had conceded the case taken against it and the grant of permission was quashed.