IFA President Tim Cullinan said An Taisce has a number of questions to answer following their decision to lodge another appeal of the planning permission for the Glanbia cheese plant.
Q1: Why won’t An Taisce accept decisions of the statutory planning appeals body An Bord Pleanala? Or our High Court?
As they point out, An Taisce is a prescribed body for certain planning matters under the Planning Acts. This means that they are required to be notified of certain planning applications. The same Planning Acts that grant them this status has Bord Pleanala as the planning appeals body.
Yet An Taisce won’t accept their decisions. It must be emphasised that the Judicial Review which An Taisce lost was not against Glanbia, it was against Bord Pleanala. Now they won’t accept a decision of the High Court.
An Taisce say they have ‘no choice’ but to bring an appeal because they want to raise ‘points of law’. This is nonsense as it goes way beyond their remit as a prescribed body. Furthermore, the judge in the High Court case says that it was clear that An Taisce’s real issue is with Government policy.
An Taisce has now lost their case three times, but it’s clear their strategy is designed to keep appealing until the project runs out of time. This is a reprehensible abuse of the planning system, their position as a prescribed body and the court system. It must be remembered that the people impacted here will be farmers and their families.
Q2: How is An Taisce funding these court actions?
An Taisce is funded from the state and from charitable donations. Which funds are they using to pay legal fees? Is it appropriate that state funds or money raised for charitable purposes is spent on legal fees?
Q3: Why did An Taisce fundamentally change its constitution in December?
An Taisce is not the same body as the one originally prescribed under the planning acts. In December 2020, An Taisce passed a new constitution.
This constitution considerably widened its remit and concentrated power in the hands of their board consisting of seven people. This reduced considerably the powers of its National Council. An Taisce must clarify why it took the decision to centralise power in the hands of a small few?
Q4: Who within An Taisce made the decision to appeal to the High Court and to appeal again?
An Taisce needs to state what decisions were made under the old constitution and what decisions were made under this new constitution? What body in An Taisce decided to make the initial appeal to the High Court and what body has decided to appeal it?
Q5: Why has An Taisce excluded their local groups from decisions on planning appeals?
Under the new constitution it appears An Taisce have removed any involvement for local An Taisce groups in decision making around local planning issues. The appear to only have reps from 11 regional groups on the Council. How many regional groups do An Taisce actually have? And why have they been excluded from having an input on planning matters in their own area?
Members of Kilkenny IFA met with An Taisce members recently at a local level. At the meeting, An Taisce reps said the decision to launch multiple appeals had been taken at headquarters level.
Q6: How many members do An Taisce have?
In the original constitution there was a provision that every regional group who had more than 400 members could have a second seat on their Council. That number has been reduced to 40 in the new constitution. This suggest that the membership of An Taisce has collapsed. An Taisce need to state publicly how many members they had at December 31st, 2020.
Tim Cullinan said that An Taisce need to come out and answer these questions.
“I wrote to An Taisce a number of months ago seeking to meet them on this and they refused to do so. I eventually, through persistence, met one of their senior members on two occasions who advised me that An Taisce wanted to make a stand,” he said.