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Kilkenny cheese plant controversy: Supreme Court to hear appeal against planning decision

Glanbia Ireland chairman John Murphy said the company remains “totally committed to this project”.

AN TAISCE HAS been given permission to appeal to the Supreme Court a High Court decision which dismissed its appeal against the granting of planning permission for a multi-million euro cheese factory in Kilkenny.

The environmental NGO has raised concerns about the assessment of the environmental impact of the plant, and challenged An Bord Pleanála’s decision to allow it.

It brought the initial challenge to the High Court – but this case was quashed by the court earlier this year. In July, the High Court also dismissed An Taisce’s challenge to seek leave to appeal the decision. 

Last month, the board of An Taisce unanimously agreed to seek leave to appeal in the Supreme Court. This has now been approved, paving the way for the group to bring the challenge forward to Ireland’s highest court. 

The plan

The proposed cheese factory would be located in Belview in Kilkenny, near the Waterford border, and would make edam and gouda cheese.

It a joint venture between Glanbia and the Dutch company Royal A-ware, as part of a strategy to diversify the Irish export market.

Responding to today’s development, Glanbia Ireland chairman John Murphy said the company remains “totally committed to this project”. 

“This project is critical to our market diversification post Brexit,” Murphy said in a statement. 

The Irish Farmers’ Association criticised An Taisce for its appeal, saying it is “likely to stall the project for a further six months”.

“On each occasion, the process has found in favour of the application. Objecting for the sake of it is an abuse of the system,” IFA president Tim Cullinan said.

Kilkenny County Council granted planning permission in November 2019 for the development of the cheese factory at Belview Industrial Park in Kilkenny. 

An Taisce lodged an appeal in December that year to An Bord Pleanála against the granting of permission on environmental impact assessment grounds. However, it gave the project the green light in July 2020. 

Then in November last year, An Taisce was granted leave by the High Court to seek a judicial review of the planning process.

In April this year, the High Court rejected this and An Taisce’s later application to appeal the decision was also rejected. 

Now, the organisation has been granted leave to bring their appeal against the High Court’s decision to reject its case against An Bord Pleanála’s July 2020 decision to the Supreme Court. 

In May this year, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin had asked for no further appeals would be submitted against the project which he described as being of “immense economic importance”. 

“I would appeal that there would be no further appeals against this project now, given the fact that the courts have ruled very clearly in relation to it and there very many jobs depend on it,” Martin said in the Dáil. 

Glanbia has said previously that the cheese factory is an “essential” piece of infrastructure, and will help to sustain the local rural economy. 

It aims to create 100 permanent jobs in the factory, and up to 400 jobs during construction. Glanbia said is “fully satisfied” in the project’s merit and is happy to work with any stakeholder about their concerns.

In today’s Supreme Court declaration seen by The Journal, the court said the notices filed and the High Court judgement show the issue concerns questions about evidence in cases where a proposed development may have an impact on areas protected under the Habitats Directive. 

The court said it considers that bringing further clarity as to the proper approach to evidence or argument around relevant scientific matters in judicial review proceedings is a “matter of general public importance”. 

The debate

The IFA’s Tim Cullinan said in a statement in July that the proposal should “proceed without delay” after An Taisce’s High Court appeal was refused. 

“As the most exposed sector in the country, it’s reckless of any organisation to obstruct a valid initiative that is designed to safeguard the livelihoods of farm families and the rural economy in the south east,” Cullinan said. 

An Taisce has said it is “keenly aware” of the concerns within the faming community and elsewhere about the wellbeing of farmers who have invested heavily in the sector. 

But it argued that the implications of the expansion of this sector for ecosystems and rural communities are “enormous and irreversible”. 

In a statement last month, An Taisce said it would be “irresponsible” for the organisation not to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. 


The cheese plant is hoped to diversify Ireland’s cheese production as part of a post-Brexit strategy. 

Ireland and the UK are the only consumers of cheddar cheese in significant quantities, so plans are being made to produce cheeses on the island of Ireland for export to the EU. 

Additional reporting by Niall Sargent and Gráinne Ní Aodha. 

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