An Taisce has been called on to reverse its decision to appeal the High Court judgement on planning permission for the Glanbia cheese plant at Belview by the Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society (ICOS), the umbrella body representing co-ops.
It said the delay in bringing the new cheese plant into production due to planning objections made by An Taisce is greatly disappointing and concerning.
“The judgement by the High Court dismissed the legal challenge put forward by An Taisce. Despite this, An Taisce continues to impede the development of a much-needed processing plant for Ireland and its dairy industry.
“ICOS is not disputing the right of any individual or organisation to appeal planning decisions, and we respect their statutory role in the planning process.
“That said, we strongly believe that their concerns have been considered fairly and thoroughly by Kilkenny County Council, An Bord Pleanála and the High Court.
“The continuation of the process by seeking leave to appeal only serves to unduly add further delay to a valuable economic project, with direct implications for thousands of farm families,” it said on Monday.
“It is our balanced view that An Taisce is using its privileged position in the planning process to pursue policy positions that fail to take into consideration the full economic, social and environmental implications of those positions – a role and function of the Government,” it said.
ICOS said it is gravely concerned that the ongoing delay in the planning process is putting the ability of the dairy sector to attract future foreign direct investment at immediate risk.
“It is nearly two and half years since Glanbia and Royal A-Ware announced their decision to proceed with the €140m facility with the intention of commissioning the plant in 2022.
"These timelines have been severely delayed, with significant implications for the proposed project and the farm families supplying Glanbia,” it said.
It added that the ability of the Irish dairy industry to respond fully to the implications of Brexit is impacted by the actions of An Taisce and that it is greatly worrying that An Taisce appears to be using the planning process to campaign for its stated positions.
“We believe that these policy positions are wrong and unfairly seek to undermine the right of farm families to profitably pursue milk production in a sustainable manner, in line with EU and national polices.
"It is also deeply worrying to see the increase in planning observations by the same organisation, An Taisce, to individual farm planning applications.”
ICOS acknowledged the challenges facing Irish agriculture related to climate change, water quality, biodiversity and ammonia.
It said the dairy sector is prepared to respond to these challenges and is determined to meet its responsibilities.
“What An Taisce overlooks in its public commentary relating to the dairy sector, is that unlike the FDI economy such as IT and data centres, the dairy sector makes a deeper contribution to the local economy, as every €1 of dairy sector exports represents a 90c spend in the Irish economy.
"In contrast, to the multinational sector, which has a corresponding figure of 10c spend in the Irish economy for every €1 exported,” it said.