Dunbia hopes for €12m Christmas present
By Finian Coghlan
Just a month after its expansion plans were stymied by a single vote, prompting fears the biggest Irish-owned employer in Westmeath might quit Kilbeggan, the meat-packing firm Dunbia has lodged an appeal to An Bord Pleanala in an effort to overturn this decision.
The appeal was lodged last Friday, August 19, and according to an An Bord Pleanala, a decision is due on December 22. Interested parties have four weeks (September 16) to make an observation on this appeal.
Following a heated final meeting of the year last month, Westmeath County Council chose not to re-zone the part of the Clara Road in Kilbeggan in which the Tyrone-based firm had planned to construct a €12 million extension, and double the size of its 10-year old existing plant. Different sourcesmaintain this would have added anything between 25 and 80 full-time, and 100 construction jobs, to its present workforce of 208.
“We thought long and hard about the decision to appeal...[but] the support we have received locally has driven the board to take their application to An Bord Pleanala,” said Padraig Browne, MD of Dunbia.
“We still believe that Kilbeggan is the most viable site for this consolidation and we feel we must pursue all avenues open to us to progress these plans.”
Mr Browne predicted the local economy would benefit by €2.5m through increased wages if his firm’s application was succcessful, and that it would “underpin the €100 million annual trade in cattle with local farmers”.
He had voiced his “extreme” disappointment that a number of councillors had voted against “our plans”, but what the nine out of 23 actually voted against was a material contravention of the county development plan to re-zone an area adjacent to Dunbia’s existing plant from commercial to industrial. Planning permission for the development was refused by the planning department the day after the council meeting.
It must be noted the December 22 date is when the decision is anticipated to be announced, not guaranteed. A final decision may be delayed by a number of factors, most notably if An Bord Pleanala calls for an oral hearing.
Because of the nature and extent of the proposed appeal, even if successful, the company may still have to apply for an integrated pollution certificate from the EPA before any ground could be broken.