The Supreme Court hearing of An Taisce's objection to the proposed Glanbia cheese plant in Belview will have a broad scope, the Supreme Court decided on Tuesday.
The news will come as a boost to An Taisce, and will disappoint An Bord Pleanála and Glanbia.
In September, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from An Taisce against An Bord Pleanála's upholding of Kilkenny County Council's 2019 planning approval for the cheese plant, a joint venture between Glanbia and Dutch manufacturer Royal A-ware.
A judicial review in the High Court last April upheld An Bord Pleanála's decision. Mr Justice Richard Humphreys then refused an application from An Taisce to proceed to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Humphreys had said in his judicial review that An Taisce’s real grievance was with Government policy and the issues raised were not a basis for challenging this permission decision made under the planning code.
Once the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, there followed disagreement between An Bord Pleanála and An Taisce as to the scope of the appeal. An Bord Pleanála wanted a narrow focus to the hearing.
Tuesday's ruling effectively allows An Taisce to make its case that An Bord Pleanála should have considered the environmental footprint of the milk production required to supply the plant.
However, the Supreme Court Justices have also said that the other parties (An Bord Pleanála; the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment; Ireland; and the Attorney General) can argue that appeal grounds relating to the Water Treatment Directive were never properly pleaded or raised in the High Court and, therefore, should not be determined by the higher court.
The case will be heard in January, with Kilkenny Cheese Ltd, the company formed to deliver the €140m project, a notice party.
In a short reaction to Tuesday's announcement, An Taisce said it noted "the direction given by the Supreme Court in respect of the management of its appeal against the granting of planning permission for a cheese plant at Belview, Co Kilkenny.
"We note in particular the assertion of the court that the subject of the appeal raises a fundamental issue going to the very heart of environmental law.
"We progress now to the full hearing of that appeal in January which will address the extent of evidence required by the planning authorities to understand the full and ongoing impacts for the environment that are attributable to a given development proposal before that development is granted approval."
Glanbia declined to comment.