The High Court has upheld the decision of An Bord Pleanála by granting planning permission to Glanbia for the construction of a cheese manufacturing plant in Belview, Co Kilkenny.
The Kilkenny plant is being promoted by Dutch dairy processor Royal A-ware, in partnership with Glanbia, to supply the milk.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Glanbia said it welcomed the decision.
“Glanbia welcomes the decision of the High Court to uphold the decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for its new continental cheese processing plant at Belview,” a spokeswoman added.
“The new plant, which is to be developed under a joint venture agreement with our Dutch partner Royal A-Ware, is a vital Brexit diversification measure and is important for rural Ireland and for Ireland’s dairy sector as a whole.”
Meanwhile, in November 2020 An Taisce brought a legal challenge against the granting of planning permission on a number of grounds including that the environmental impact of the agricultural activity arising from the production of the estimated 450 million litres of milk per year - needed to supply the plant - should have been assessed by An Bord Pleanála.
An Taisce says it is now considering the High Court’s judgement in respect of the matter and will “determine if there are grounds that warrant an application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal or for an application to the Supreme Court”.
“In this case, the judge did not find in our favour, but this does not alter the validity of our concerns,” Dr Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce, said.
“As consistently confirmed by the EPA, all our environmental indicators are going in the wrong direction, with a drastic loss of water quality and biodiversity, and rising greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions.
“Ultimately this was not a case taken against farmers - it was a case taken for our environment and the future viability of Irish farming, which is currently endangered by planning decisions that are not compliant with our environmental legal obligations.
“We need to move towards a Just Transition for our farmers and also achieve strong environmental legal compliance in the planning process.”
IFA President Tim Cullinan said the latest development was “significant” and would afford Glanbia an opportunity to diversify and seek new markets for Ireland’s quality milk.
The IFA president said lengthy court battles were not the ideal setting for discussions about the future of Ireland’s agri-food industry.
“We are willing to engage with anybody who wants to put forward their views on the sustainable development of our sector,” he added.
“I would invite An Taisce to meet with IFA to discuss this project and its value to the rural economy.”
ICMSA President, Pat McCormack, pointed to how the decision provided “much needed clarification”.
He urged all parties to accept that the plant will go ahead in compliance with all regulatory requirements.
“ICMSA respects any party’s right to object, but we hope that the High Court decision will be accepted,” Mr McCormack continued.
“The more immediate aspect of this whole question now becomes Glanbia’s Peak Production Supply Management Programme with its restrictions on farmer supplies.
“That very questionable policy was introduced on foot of the non-progression of the Belview plant.
“Now that we can assume that the plant will proceed, we await Glanbia’s announcement on relaxations to the proposed restrictions.”
The ICMSA president said the delay, due to the High Court challenge, was costing family farms across the Glanbia catchment dearly and undermining their viability.
“Farmers are becoming more environmentally sustainable but that has to go hand-in-hand with economic sustainability," added Mr McCormack.
"The Belview plant is an integral part of that and hopefully we’ll see construction of the new plant commencing as soon as possible."