The legal challenge to Glanbia Ireland’s joint-venture development at Belview in south Kilkenny is set for the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has granted An Taisce leave to appeal the High Court decision, which dismissed the environmental group’s earlier challenge to the granting of planning for the cheese processing facility.

This decision by the Supreme Court means that the long-running legal battle around the €200m development will now go to the highest court in the land.

In April, the High Court upheld the planning approval granted by An Bord Pleanála for the new Belview plant, which is a joint venture between Glanbia and Dutch firm Royal A-ware.

Judicial review application

However, this decision was the subject of a judicial review application by An Taisce.

The ruling means that the Supreme Court will now set a hearing date and consider the appeal before issuing its verdict.

In its finding, the Supreme Court stated that: “The issue in these proceedings, which is said to meet the constitutional threshold for leave to appeal, concerns questions about evidence and the obligation to produce same, in cases where a proposed development may involve potential effects on areas protected under the Habitats Directive.”

Reacting to the ruling, Glanbia Ireland chair John Murphy said: “We remain totally committed to this project, which was granted planning approval by Kilkenny County Council in November of 2019. This project is critical to our market diversification post-Brexit.”

The new Belview plant aims to produce up to 50,000t of continental-style cheeses when fully operational.

Glanbia has stated that it remains hopeful of having the plant up and running by 2024.

'Abuse of planning system' - IFA

IFA president Tim Cullinan has accused An Taisce of abusing its position as a prescribed body under the Planning Act by continually objecting to the Glanbia cheese plant application in the courts.

“The latest appeal to the Supreme Court is likely to stall the project for a further six months," he said.

"An Taisce has a prescribed role in the planning system, yet they are bringing the statutory planning body, An Bord Pleanála, through the courts because they won’t accept their decision, or indeed a decision of the High Court.

“On each occasion, the process has found in favour of the application. Objecting for the sake of it is an abuse of the system,” Cullinan said.

“Agriculture is the most exposed sector in the country. It’s irresponsible of An Taisce to continually obstruct a valid initiative that is designed to safeguard the livelihoods of farm families and the rural economy in the southeast,” he said.