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10 Aug 2022

€25m Offaly meat processing plant ruling delayed by An Bord Pleanala

Government 'must support' new meat factory in Offaly - TD

€25m Offaly meat processing plant ruling delayed by An Bord Pleanala - File Pic

A decision by An Bord Pleanala on an appeal against Offaly County Council's decision to grant planning permission to a proposed € 25 million meat processing facility outside Banagher has been delayed.

The national planning authority was due to issue its ruling on Monday, January 4 last but a spokesperson confirmed a decision has been deferred for a couple of weeks.

Banagher Chilling Ltd, was given planning approval on July 26 by Offaly County Council, subject to 21 conditions, for what's described as a single storey extension to the existing abattoir and the construction of a food processing factory of 4,925 sq metres on a 19.6 hectare site at Boheradurrow and Meenwaun, Banagher.

Desmond Kampff, from Coolfin, Banagher and Gwen Wordingham, Cummeen Lodge, Banagher, lodged an appeal to the planning board in August, backed by a number of other signatories, seeking the overturning of the council's granting of planning permission.

In their joint appeal, Mr Kampff and Ms Wordingham cited a number of grounds including concerns over licencing status of the facility, the applicant company's experience in the industry, the need for the facility, whether they local authority had adhered to Government policy and whether the proposal would provide the suggested local jobs dividend.

They say that it is not the case that the facility is ‘currently used as an abattoir’ or that it holds an ‘existing licence’.

They say that the Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed to them that there is no active licence in place for the site.

“We have also confirmed with the relevant bodies that licences related to the operation of any previous abattoir on the site are non-transferable to a new facility, and the applicant will need to apply for such once construction is complete.”

They argue that the possibility that such licences would not be granted should be considered in the planning process.

They expressed concern that the plant has been “misrepresented” as a development which will bring a big employment boost to the local area.

Instead, the appellants point out that the meat processing industry is well known for its dependence on migrant labour, with migrants reported to account for 58% of the workforce.

Previously, the development had run into difficulties when an Immigrant Investment Programme application associated with the project was rejected.

The programme, set up in 2012 to encourage inward investment from outside Europe, offers residency status to those who invest €1 million in Ireland for a minimum of three years.

The application was refused by an evaluation committee in the Department of Justice.

Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan has said that the move by An Bord Pleanála to delay its decision to grant planning permission for a new meat processing facility in Banagher has only served to hamper the introduction of much needed competition within the sector. An Bord Pleanála had been due to publish its decision on the matter today, but this was subsequently pushed back after an appeal was lodged with the authority in August: 

“It has been clear to almost everyone involved in this process just how important this new facility could be in terms of stimulating the local rural economy, expanding market competition and making Offaly an attractive site capable of generating inward investment.  Unfortunately, any kind of resolution to the project has been delayed yet again, and on what I would consider to be very weak grounds.”

“As I understand it, An Bord Pleanála accepted the appeal on the questionable grounds of whether the local authority had adhered to government policy. But we know for a fact that the current Programme for Government states it is fully committed to the future of the beef sector and introducing steps to mitigate the serious hardship and low-income challenges that beef farmers have experienced.”

“Some of the clearest ways to achieve these outcomes is by supporting competition and reducing the existing cartel like structure and monopoly. The Banagher facility would certainly play an important role in all of this.”

“The communities of Offaly and indeed the wider midlands region deserve clarity and commitment to this project. That is not being helped by the acceptance of grounds for appeal that have little if any relationship to reality,” concluded Deputy Nolan

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