Business Irish

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Keelings hits back at planners over stalled development

 

Caroline Keeling, chief executive of Keelings which is planning to build new staff accommodation
Caroline Keeling, chief executive of Keelings which is planning to build new staff accommodation

Fearghal O'Connor

Horticultural company Keelings is in a stand-off with planners over its proposal to build temporary accommodation for hundreds of fruit pickers in north county Dublin.

It has insisted that accommodation plans it has drawn up for 200 seasonal workers are suitable and that it does not need to add extra bathroom facilities despite a demand by planners to do so.

The company has warned that the proposed development of eight new buildings near Swords to house its required local workforce would "address a critical threat to the continuity and growth of their business and indeed of horticulture in Fingal," according to a planning report submitted on behalf of Keelings, which is headed by Caroline Keeling, as part of the application.

The firm's annual turnover exceeds €300m and it employs up to 2,000 people, three-quarters of them in Fingal. It has told planners that in order to run its business it needs to hire seasonal workers from abroad for several months during the harvesting season.

But a subsequent report by a Fingal County Council planning officer said "concern must be expressed about the quality of accommodation in the proposed units". Toilet provision was working out at one toilet per four people compared to one per three people in the existing building, it said.

"Whilst insulation and the general quality of the buildings may be an improvement on the existing situation, welfare facilities for residents should demonstrate a similar level of improvement."

But in recent days the company responded to say that it had reviewed the Fingal development plan and that its plans complied with the requirement to provide each pair of two bedrooms with a dedicated bathroom facility.

"As the seasonal workers' stay is relatively short, they experience great difficulty in obtaining short-term residential accommodation," it had said in its application. "Indeed, in recent times it has been next to impossible for seasonal workers to get accommodation in the Greater Dublin Area."

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