High Court environmental rights constitution

An Taisce to bring Kilkenny cheese plant case to the Supreme Court

9 August 2021 

Campaigners will be bringing the recent decision to grant planning permission to a cheese plant in Kilkenny to the Supreme Court. 

The board of An Taisce announced today that it would be appealing the High Court’s ruling in April that upheld the planning permission decision for the joint Royal A-ware and Glanbia cheese plant after the non-governmental organisation argued that the environmental impact of the report should have been assessed in the decision-making process. 

The plant is estimated to require 450 million litres of milk each year and will result in higher ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions as well as further deterioration in water quality, according to An Taisce. 

An Taisce brought the case to the highest court in the land as they believe the “original judgment raised points of law that are of exceptional public importance and which require to be appealed in the public interest.” 

They added in their statement that they have “considered the step carefully” and stressed that they were keenly aware of the widespread concerns within the farming community and “ the consequences for them if it does not continue to expand as proposed in various Government and industry plans.” 

However, An Taisce said the expansion would have “enormous and irreversible” consequences for essential ecosystems and Irish rural communities.

“It would thus be irresponsible of us not to seek the support of the highest court in the land to advocate for the interests of a sustainable future for nature,” they concluded. 

The history of the plant 

Kilkenny County Council had initially greenlighted the plant for development in Belview in November 2019. It was to be run by Glanbia and Royal A-ware, a Dutch-based company that specialises in cheese and dairy products. 

Glanbia would be providing milk to the plant while Royal A-ware processed it. Both companies had hoped it would be in operation by the end of 2022. 

A month after Kilkenny County Council approved the plant, An Taisce appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála on environmental impact assessment grounds. 

Following the High Court decision to uphold the plant’s permission, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce Elaine McGoff said that the validity of their concerns remained unaltered. 

“As consistently confirmed by the EPA, all our environmental indicators are going in the wrong direction, with a drastic loss of water quality and biodiversity, and rising greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions,” Dr. McGoff said. 

Given its legal obligations, Ireland will have to take the necessary action and “failure to do so will result in large costs to the State,” she added. 

Agriculture is Ireland’s largest emitting sector, accounting for well over a third of total emissions, and its contribution is growing. 

According to the latest available data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), emissions grew by 0.4 per cent by 2019 and 2020. 

That same report projected that overall emissions in the country would decline by 6 per cent within that same time frame. 

The report’s authors attributed the growth primarily to an increase in fuel and nitrogen fertiliser use. Additionally, the national herd continues to expand.

Between June 2019 and June 2020, the national herd grew by 1.5 per cent and the total amount of dairy cows increased by 4.2 per cent. 

2019 EPA projections stated that the dairy herd size would increase for the ninth consecutive year by 2.8 per cent, with an over 5 per cent increase in total national milk production. 

Total dairy cow numbers grew by almost a quarter from 2014 to 2019 and milk production rose by 41 per cent in those same five years. 

The EPA has previously cited the Food Wise 2025 Strategy and the removal of dairy quotas as key factors driving the industry’s growth. 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson