EXCLUSIVE: Thumbs up for €40 million Offaly meat processing plant

Karen O'Grady

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Karen O'Grady

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news@midlandtribune.ie

EXCLUSIVE: Thumbs up for €40 million Offaly meat processing plant

thumbs given to € 40 million meat processing plant near Banagher

Planners in Offaly County Council cleared the way for the construction of a €40 million meat processing plant near Banagher.

The local authority made the decision earlier this week to approve the application for the factory, which the applicants say will create 150 jobs once up and running and another 250 posts during construction.

Banagher Chilling Ltd is proposing the construction of a food processing factory of 4,925 metres and a single story extension to an abattoir, to include processing rooms along with a new site entrance spanning 50 acres on a site located 3.5km to the southeast of Banagher, at Boheradurrow and Meenwaun.

A decision was due in March on this planning application after the applicants supplied 25 points of further information, requested by the local authority back in August 2019. However, a final verdict was stalled on March 6 when the clarification was sought on the further information.

Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly Barry Cowen has welcomed the decision by Offaly County Council to grant planning permission for a meat processing plant at Banagher. However, the Offaly TD warned that a decision from the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) to reject applications from investors involved in the project at Banagher will put the project in jeopardy.

 Deputy Cowen commented: “The decision by Offaly County Council to grant planning is a positive one. This is a €40m project which will provide West Offaly with 250 construction jobs and a further 150 jobs in the operation of the plant. The meat processing plant offers a unique and welcome opportunity to create jobs. People do not need to be reminded of the devastating impact of job losses in the region from Bord Na Mona and the ESB plants recently.”

Speaking last night (Tuesday, July 28) , Deputy Cowen stated: “In the last 12/18 months, I worked with investors led by Hong Kong National and Investment Company to identify a site and to progress a planning application for a meat processing plant at Banagher. From a planning perspective, the location of Banagher Chilling on a site previously used as an abattoir in addition to strict assessment by planning department of Offaly County Council, who granted planning offers a unique and welcome opportunity to create jobs in Offaly, provide direct access/route to markets in Asia and increase competition in the beef industry raising the potential to improve price for producers, thus helping to boost incomes for farm families.”

Commenting on Tuesday night, Deputy Cowen continued: “The meat processing plant will open up opportunities to the Asian market for Irish beef farmers, thus helping boost incomes for farm families. Some of the investors in this project made applications under the Immigrant Investor Programmes (IIP) open to applicants that invest over €1m. To my utter dismay and disbelief an evaluation committee which assesses these applications, made up of senior officials from government Departments and State Agencies has rejected the applications. They conclude the project would appear ‘not appropriate for project approval’. The committee further concluded, 'the project doesn't align with Government policy in relation to the beef processing industry, having regard to the fact that it's not currently policy to pursue the development of additional plants where there's no established deficit in capacity'.”

Continuing, the Laois/Offaly TD stated: “I might only have been Minister for Agriculture for 17 days but you'd hardly need a green cert to recognise that this conclusion in no way reflects Irish farming sectors understanding of Government's policy, which has for over ten years sought to open Asian markets, which this plant and project will exclusively supply.”

“Beef and suckler farmers crave new markets. The government policy for the past ten years has sought to open Asian markets which this project will exclusively supply.”

“The Local Authority, the support of the community, assistance from the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia, and others have backed this project. Yet, a nameless committee deciding on an IIP application has brought the entire project into doubt. This decision needs to be reconsidered and their decision process outlined in full,” concluded Deputy Cowen.