Grafton Group to challenge proposed Offaly manure-to-gas plant

Biogas facility in Tullamore gets green light from planners but now faces judicial review

The stock market-listed building materials company Grafton Group is to ask the High Court to set aside a decision by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) to allow a proposed new biogas facility in Offaly that would turn silage, manure and chicken litter into gas to heat homes and businesses.

Strategic Power Projects, an Irish company that says it plans to invest up to €1 billion in a range of renewable energy projects, wants to build the anaerobic digestion facility on a plot just outside Tullamore, in partnership with a local farmer.

But it has met fierce resistance from local residents and businesses, including Grafton, which owns a Chadwick’s builders yard beside the site.

Offaly County Council originally refused the development on grounds including its potential impact on the local environment.

Objections from local residents and businesses included concerns about traffic, noise, odour and the potential for spillages. Grafton also objected on the grounds that it says the facility is contrary to local development plans. It also queried the zoning of the site.

The developer, which is run by businessman Paul Carson, submitted documents on its environmental impact. Strategic Power claims that almost all of the raw materials for the plant would come from farms within a 10km radius, and it said there would not be a need for any municipal waste to be fed into it.

The proposal is to build huge tanks that would hold and warm the manure and silage, resulting in the creation of gases that could then be injected straight into the grid overseen by Gas Networks Ireland.

It would be staffed during the day by four or five workers, but it is proposed that it would be unmanned at night. The ABP inspectors’ report also suggests that, at times, excess gas could be “flared” at the site.

In February ABP gave the proposed facility the go-ahead. However, Grafton has now hired lawyers and filed an application for a judicial review.

The company was unavailable for comment, although it is believed the judicial review is likely to focus on the zoning of the site as a court challenge to a planning decision must be made on procedural grounds.

Strategic Power is involved in up to 15 other planned projects in Ireland, including solar electricity and power storage facilities.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column