Final decision on €40m Offaly meat plant delayed yet again

Karen o'Grady

Reporter:

Karen o'Grady

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

Final decision on €40m Offaly meat plant delayed again . Stock image

A final decision on  plans for a new €40 million meat factory is not expected for a number of weeks yet after the decision was delayed again.

A decision on Banagher Chilling Ltd's planning application, which was appealed to An Bord Pleanala last year, was expected on January 4 last. However, the decision has been delayed again with a final decision not expected until late April.

Offaly County Council granted permission for the massive Chinese backed development close to Banagher back in August. However, the decision was subsequently appealed to the planning appeals board. It is understood that a decision is not expected until late April.

Local TD, Carol Nolan has said there is considerable anger and frustration emerging following the confirmation from An Bord Pleanála (APB) that it is not in a position to determine the outcome of an appeal related to the Banagher meat processing plant in County Offaly.

Deputy Nolan went on to say that ABP have indicated they have yet to receive the Inspectors report on the appeal, which was due by March 1, and that this has now made it impossible for a determination to be made on the case.

“This latest setback is totally unacceptable particularly as the board had been due to make a decision on January 4). Now here we are almost two months past that date and we have yet another delay.

“This is only going to deepen the perception that any attempt to open up the meat market in the Midlands and in Offaly, will be subject to endless delays and bureaucratic nonsense. I have repeatedly made it clear just how important this new facility could be in terms of stimulating the local rural economy, expanding market competition and making Co. Offaly attractive as a site capable of generating inward investment.

“However, none of that appears to be registering with An Bord Pleanála in the slightest. At this stage the entire process is actively working against, not only our local interest, but also the clear commitments in the Programme for Government that beef farmers and the beef sector would be supported.

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

In response to recent articles on the issue, resident Des Kampff told the Tribune that the recent further extension by Bord Pleanala in coming to a decision is seen by the group as 'reflecting the serious substance in our appeal that required extensive adjudication'.

“In the interim, many of the assertions in promoting the project were found wanting. Employment in meat process factories is universally taken up by up to 70 per cent migrant workers for whom there's no accommodation available in the area. The Competition Authority, in writing to us, has accepted the IIP statement that 'they didn't impose any additional barriers to market entry or exit (the Chinese investor in the project had been refused entry to the programme'. There was never clarification of the amount of the investors investment relative to the projects costs, which fluctuated from 25 to 40m”

“Assertions of support included the local community - yet Banagher Chilling Ltd remains an unknown entity and neither has had any public engagement with the community. Among the farming community only a handful of Offaly farmers supported a country wide petition for the Bord to deny the appeal. Bord Bia, in a statement to us, say that their remit is the promotion and marketing of Irish Food. 'The setting up of meat processing plants is outside their remit and therefore would not provide support or advise on this.

“Those familiar with farming affairs will be aware of the 2030 agri-food strategy now having to focus on the environmental sustainability of the agri food sector. It's inevitable that a change from the current expansionary model will emerge, to meet our commitments on emissions. In this context, and in these times can there be justification in building a large scale meat processing plant where all the trends tell us that it will become more and more redundant as we go into a new future.”