Cowen says Banagher project in doubt despite planning approval

Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly Barry Cowen has welcomed the decision by Offaly County Council to grant planning permission for a meat processing plant at Banagher.

Offaly County Council was due make a final decision by July 27 on the factory proposals by Banagher Chilling Limited to construct a food processing factory of 4,925 metres and a single-storey extension to an abattoir, to include processing rooms, along with a new site entrance spanning 50 acres on a site located 3.5km to the southeast of the town, at Boheradurrow and Meenwaun.

Deputy Cowen has warned, however, that a decision from the Immigrant Investor Programme to reject applications from investors involved in the project at Banagher will put the project in jeopardy.

He commented: “The decisions by Offaly County Council to grant planning is a positive one. This is a €40m project which will provide West Offaly with 250 construction jobs and a further 150 jobs in the operation of the plant.

“The meat processing plant offers a unique and welcome opportunity to create jobs. People do not need to be reminded of the devastating impact of jobs losses in the region from Bord Na Mona and the ESB plants recently.

“The meat processing plant will open up opportunities to the Asian market for Irish beef farmers, thus helping boost incomes for farm families.

“Some of the investors in this project made applications under the Immigrant Investor Programmes (IIP) open to applicants that invest over €1m. To my utter dismay and disbelief an evaluation committee which assesses these applications, made up of senior officials from government Departments and State Agencies has rejected the applications. They conclude the project would appear ‘not appropriate for project approval’.

“Beef and suckler farmers crave new markets. The government policy for the past ten years has sought to open Asian markets which this project will exclusively supply.

“The local authority, the support of the community, assistance from the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia, and others have backed this project. Yet, a nameless committee deciding on an IIP application has brought the entire project into doubt. This decision needs to be reconsidered and their decision process outlined in full,” concluded Deputy Cowen.

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