Department assessing the submitted documentation on the proposed Banagher plant
The backers of a contentious plan for a €40m meat processing plant for Banagher, Co Offaly have formally sought Dept of Agriculture approval for the project.
In a written Dáil reply, Minister McConalogue told Deputy Brid Smith (Solidarity People Before Profit) that the Department is currently assessing the submitted documentation on the proposed plant.
In September, plans for the beef processing plant were put on hold after Banagher man, Desmond Kampff, and others lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála against the decision by Offaly County Council to give the Chinese-backed Banagher Chilling Ltd the green light for the project
After Banagher Chilling Ltd secured planning permission for the development, it emerged that a Government evaluation committee refused an Immigrant Investor Programme application to one of the Chinese investors behind the Banagher plan.
According to former Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen (FF), the application was refused after the committee concluded the project does not align with Government policy on the beef processing industry. The committee indicated that it is not currently policy to pursue the development of additional plants where there is no established deficit in capacity.
Deputy Cowen expressed his “utter dismay and disbelief” at the refusal.
Now, in response to a request from Deputy Smith, Minister McConalogue has released the Department’s full submission to the Immigrant Investor Programme evaluation committee.
The submission stated that “the proposed plant operators have only made preliminary contact with the Department, with a cursory site visit earlier this year and no further contact since then”.
The submission continues: “The site itself would require significant investment to bring it to the standard necessary for EU approval.”
The submission also states that Department approval for the plant “is not a foregone conclusion”.
“After EU approval, the plant would then need to apply for approval to export to the Chinese market in line with its stated objectives. Approval for the Chinese market is a lengthy and onerous process.”
The officials point out that there are already 22 Department-approved beef slaughter plants in Ireland and 161 local authority approved plants authorised to slaughter bovines, some of which operate on a part-time basis only.
Enterprise Ireland does not currently grant aid investment in additional slaughterhouse capacity on the basis that there is no deficit in slaughterhouse capacity.
“In summary the proposed plant is not meeting an identified strategic requirement for additional plant capacity and there are no guarantees at this stage that it would meet the highest standards required for EU and Chinese approvals,” stated the Department submission.
The Bord Pleanála decision on the planning appeal against the proposed plant in January.
In his appeal, self-described “lifelong environmentalist” Mr Kampff told An Bord Pleanála: “We are a group of concerned local people who fundamentally believe there is no justification for the development of a facility of this scale at this location.”
He also stated that any company which applies to develop a facility that poses a high risk to the environment, should be able to demonstrate their experience, competence and track record in the relevant sector.