By Gordon Deegan

An Bord Pleanála has granted planning permission to contentious plans for the €40 million Banagher Chilling meat processing plant in Co Offaly.

The appeals board green light comes almost two years after Banagher man and self described “lifelong environmentalist” Desmond Kampff and co-appellant,
Gwen Wordingham lodged an appeal against the Offaly County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the proposed plant.

The appeals board granted planning permission after concluding that the proposal would be in accordance with national and regional policy on development in rural areas, and the promotion of the agricultural sector and rural economy.

The appeals board also found that the meat processing plant would not, pending the adoption of sectoral emissions plans, be contrary to the provisions of the Climate Action Plan 2021.

The appeals board also found that the proposed plant would not seriously injure the visual amenities of the area or have a significant negative impact on the lands and would not depreciate the value of properties in the area.

The board also found that the proposed plant would not give rise to a risk of pollution.

Plans were first lodged in July 2019 for the meat processing facility that will have the capacity to process 40t of meat per day and will cater for 140 cattle per day.

The board stated that the scheme would have a positive impact on the local and wider economy.

It was recommended that planning permission be granted in January of this year but the board in February requested that the applicants provide a response to assess the
climate change impact of the development.

In response, Banagher Chilling Ltd stated that neither the total emissions from the development, or the emissions as a percentage of reduction targets, are significant.

The Banagher submission stated that the national herd is increasing by 1.5% per year to a total of 7,314,400 head in 2020, and that the proposed development will require around 36,000 animals per year while the national herd is increasing by around 110,000 head every year.

Banagher Chilling also stated that the yearly slaughter rate at licenced Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine plants in 2020 was 1,798,682 animals and that, therefore, “the 36,000 animals proposed at the current facility would constitute a very small percentage of the national total”.

In his response, Mr. Kampff contended that the requirement of 36,000 cattle per annum represents approximately a third of the current increase in herd numbers per annum, and that a reliance on a continuance of the herd increase would make the business non-viable in the future.

Mr. Kampff further argued that the conclusions reached by Banagher Chilling regarding the non-significance of the development in climate impact terms are not accepted and do not take account of the fact that emissions will have to fall to meet national climate targets.

In the original appeal, Mr. Kampff has told An Bord Pleanála: “We are a group of concerned local people who fundamentally believe there is no justification for the development of a facility of this scale at this location.”

Offaly County Council told the appeals board that due to the national herd size increasing by 1.5% per annum, the proposed development will not lead to any increase in herd size and that the proposed development would comprise a very small percentage of the yearly slaughter rate at Department of Agriculture-licenced facilities.