Four former Fine Gael ministers and two Senators have criticised An Taisce for appealing the High Court’s decision to grant planning permission to a €140 million cheese manufacturing plant on the Kilkenny-Waterford border, saying the move “does not cast Ireland in a good light”.
The cheese plant, proposed for Belview in the south of Co Kilkenny, is a joint venture between Glanbia and Dutch cheesemakers Royal A-Ware, but An Taisce has made several objections to the plan, saying the new facility and the increased agricultural activity needed to support it would increase carbon emissions and damage water quality.
Fine Gael TDs Charlie Flanagan, Paul Kehoe, John Paul Phelan and David Stanton – who are all former ministers or ministers of state – and Senators Garret Ahearn and John Cummins released a statement calling on An Taisce to withdraw its appeal.
“This notice to appeal the decision made by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanála 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,” the statement reads.
“How An Taisce, funded by the taxpayer, is taking the planning system and Government policy to a second court is beyond comprehension.”
The group also criticised the heritage organisation’s objections to housing and forestry projects, noting that timber supplies in the State were running “critically low” with consequences for the construction industry.
“In taking this further appeal, An Taisce is alienating the main group involved in environmental protection across Ireland – our farmers and their families,” the statement continues.
“The Government must now look again at An Taisce being funded by the taxpayer, its consistent opposition of government policy and possibly their special status under the planning acts.”
In a statment Glanbia said it noted An Taisce’s appeal decision with “great dissapointment”.
“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,” Glanbia chairman John Murphy said.
Planning permission for the Dutch-style cheese plant and other works at Belview Science and Technology Park, Gorteens, Slieverue, Co Kilkenny, was granted by An Bord Pleanála in June 2019, when it was hoped that it could become operational by the end of 2022.
The group of TDs and Senators called on An Taisce to withdraw its latest appeal and “work with the planning system, rather than constantly against it”, holding a “constructive conversation around a table” with Glanbia and Royal A-Ware on its concerns.
The appeal puts in jeopardy a project that would create hundreds of jobs in a part of the country that has struggled, they added.
“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.”