Farm presidents say An Taisce’s further appeal against a Kilkenny cheese plant ‘is a reprehensible abuse of the planning system’
Farmers, and their families, will bear the first brunt of An Taisce’s further appeal against a proposed new cheese processing plant in Co. Kilkenny, farm leaders have warned.
Responding to the latest twist between An Taisce and Glanbia Ireland, Royal A-Ware, An Bord Pleanála, Kilkenny County Council and the High Court, ICMSA president Pat McCormack and IFA president Tim Cullinan pushed the matter into Government hands.
“The state is fast approaching a ‘make your mind up moment’ on the question of enabling legal challenges to planning decisions that have already progressed tortuously through the planning process,” said Mr McCormack.
“The further court appeal against the Glanbia proposal at Belview is hugely concerning and damaging in terms of its uncertainty and delay over a vital project – not just for Glanbia’s suppliers, but for the whole economy of the Glanbia catchment area.
“Let’s be very clear. Farm families in the Glanbia catchment will be the first to be hit by this further appeal, but the wider economy in the Glanbia regions will also feel the negative impact.
“We have a sector delivering for rural Ireland, there are no viable alternatives to this sector, but it appears that some people are intent on stopping its sustainable progress.
Describing the situation as “an issue of national importance”, he added “our Government simply cannot continue to act as third party observer”.
“While recognising the separation of powers between Government and the courts, the Government needs to bring the two parties together, identify the issues of concern and deliver an outcome that will allow this project to proceed without any further delay.
“We are getting to a stage where the development of rural Ireland is being effectively ‘managed’ by non-elected people, the Glanbia situation is the latest example of this, and it has to stop.”
IFA president Tim Cullinan says “there are a number of questions An Taisce must answer”.
“Why won’t An Taisce accept decisions of the statutory planning appeals body An Bord Pleanála? Or our High Court? Who is funding An Taisce’s court actions? Why did An Taisce fundamentally change its constitution in December? And who within An Taisce made the decision to appeal to the High Court and to appeal again?”
Outlining that An Taisce has now “lost its case three times”, Mr Cullinan contended that the NGO’s strategy “is clearly designed to keep appealing until the project runs out of time”.
“This is a reprehensible abuse of the planning system, their position as a prescribed body and the court system. It must be remembered that the people impacted here will be farmers and their families.
“I wrote to An Taisce a number of months ago seeking to meet them on this and they refused to do so. I eventually, through persistence, met the president of An Taisce Fr Sean McDonagh on two occasions. He advised me that An Taisce ‘wanted to make a stand’.
“An Taisce has a privileged position as a prescribed body under the Planning Acts. In my view, they are abusing this privilege. Their new constitution raises serious issues about their remit and their democratic mandate,” Mr Cullinan concluded.
The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Ltd (ICOS) has also called on An Taisce to reverse its decision to appeal the High Court judgement. The umbrella body for the Irish co-operative movement described the development as “greatly disappointing and concerning”.
“ICOS is not disputing the right of any individual or organisation to appeal planning decisions, and we respect their statutory role in the planning process.
“That said, we strongly believe that their concerns have been considered fairly and thoroughly by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanála and the High Court.
“The continuation of the process by seeking leave to appeal, only serves to unduly add further delay to a valuable economic project, with direct implications for thousands of farm families.
“It is our balanced view that An Taisce is using its privileged position in the planning process to pursue policy positions that fail to take into consideration the full economic, social and environmental implications of those positions – a role and function of the Government.”
ICOS is also “gravely concerned” about the potential impact of the decision on future Foreign Direct Investment; and also highlighted “deep worry” regarding “the increase in planning observations by An Taisce to individual farm planning applications”.
“What An Taisce overlooks in its public commentary relating to the dairy sector, is that unlike the FDI economy such as IT and data centres, the dairy sector makes a deeper contribution to the local economy, as every €1 of dairy sector exports represents a 90 cent spend in the Irish economy.”
Last Friday, An Taisce confirmed its intention to seek leave to appeal the recent decision of the High Court dismissing its challenge against the decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for the development of a €140m cheese processing plant.
The proposal is a joint venture between Glanbia and Dutch company Royal A-Ware at Belview in Co Kilkenny.
In a statement the National Trust for Ireland said: “Having considered the High Court judgment in detail we believe it raises points of law of exceptional importance which should be appealed in the public interest.
"These go to the fundamental legal obligations for environmental assessment in planning matters, in particular in relation to dairy processing.
“We are therefore compelled by our statutory role to seek an appeal based on concerns about the specific project, and the precedent this judgment might set in relation to other similar or comparable projects in the future."