The decision to grant planning permission by An Bord Pleanála to Strategic Power Ltd for an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant located just outside Tullamore has been overturned.

The decision was challenged in the High Court by neighbouring business Grafton Group plc, owner of chains such as Chadwicks and Woodies.

The proposed AD plant was set to process 50,000t of agricultural feedstock, including grass silage, crops and chicken manure, all of which would be sourced from within a 10km radius.

The 5.2ac AD plant was planned to be built on land owned by farmer Nicholas Molloy, which is zoned as a strategic employment zone.

The site is located 150m away from a Chadwicks store, which is still locally known as Tullamore Hardware.

In Grafton Group's original objection, they argued that consideration was not given to the proximity of the plant to their store and the potential impacts it may have.

Low employment

In a judgment published last week, Ms Justice Emily Farrell quashed An Bord Pleanála's decision, citing a number of reasons.

The judge stated that it is not possible to ascertain from the board's decision or order or the inspector's report why permission was granted for a development creating such low employment on a relatively large site within a strategic employment zone.

The judge did not consider that 50 to 70 jobs during construction, followed by four to five jobs during operations, are sufficient to comply with the development plan objective for the zoning, ie to "facilitate strategic large-scale employment in development zones".

The judge also stated that An Bord Pleanála's failure to publish the applicant's environmental impact assessment report on its website was a breach of its obligations.

This was a "deliberate" and "mischievous act" by the board, which failed to comply with its obligations, she said.