Great Northern Distillery on the Carrick Road in Dundalk
Plans to develop a 111 acre whiskey maturation facility in Kilcurry, comprising of 13 warehouses, are officially dead in the water after Louth County Council unanimously voted against allowing the plans to go ahead at specially held meeting in Dundalk on Tuesday evening.
18 councillors were present and all voted against allowing the proposal to materirally contravene the County Development Plan. Great Northern Distillery's John Teeling, the man behind the proposed development, required 22 of 29 sitting Louth County councillors to back the plan for it to proceed.
The distillery boss had already said he was no longer looking to build the site in Louth after objections were raised ahead of the meeting, but having not withdrawn the planning application, the meeting took place as a matter of course.
Chief Executive Joan Martin outlined at the offset why the decision was taken to bring the matter to the members, considering the plans violated planning laws.
"It's quite an unusual step to take to propose to grant a material contravention. It's quite a big step to take," she said. "In this case, we were dealing with an industry already in Louth and producing whiskey in Louth and now needed a storage space.
"I was aware of the requirement that that company had in terms of size of site required. It was always going to be a considerable challenge to find a site. They looked at a large number of sites. Given, that it was a local industry, I felt it should be granted and we should consider a material contravention."
In total, the council say, 17 sites across Louth were looked at as possibilities for the whiskey maturation facility with the site in Kilcurry deemed "the only one suitable, albeit it wasn't suitable from a planning point of view."
Speaking at the meeting, Fine Gael councillor John McGahon described the move by Teeling as "not only incomptenance but stupidity."
"I've never liked the concept of agri land being bought for a development it wasn't zoned for. Agri land would be a much lower cost than zoned land. I didn't buy the point that this was the only suitable site in Louth," he said.
"If he was so serious about not having it in Louth, he should have withdrawn the application," McGahon added, referring to Teeling's comments in the Irish Times last week.
"If I ever heard trying to pull a fast one, there it is in black and white in The Irish Times. He was throwing toys out of the pram because he didn't like the feedback he was getting."
Fianna Fail councillor Emma Coffey said the proposal to build at the un-zoned site in Kilcurry was like "the cart before the horse. I really feel it is just not a suitable site. I find it really incredible there was no suit that was suitable."
New elected Dundalk Municipal Cathaoirleach Conor Keelan questioned the impact that the proposed development would have on the local community such as the school and church in the vicinity, as well as required traffic calming measures.
How the proposed whiskey warehouse site in Kilcurry would have looked
Meanwhile, Green Party councillor Mark Dearey said he was "baffled" at how the decision even made it this far to a special meeting debate.
"I don't get from the Chief Executive's comments what the strategy was that justified the contravention. I'm a bit baffled that the Chief Executive even made the recommendation to use that we altered the plan.
"We only have a limited stock of industrial land available. This could use up a large portion of it," Dearey said.
A vote was taken, with the decision unanimously taken to deny the material contravention - by 18 votes to zero.
A total of 42 submissions had been made in objection to the major development, including from the Kilcurry Concerned Residents Committee and the Parents Committee from Schoil Phadraig Naofa.
It materially contravenes two aspects of the Louth County Development Plan 2015-2021. The first is in relation to 'large scale industrial and commercial developments not being 'considered appropriate' for a greenbelt area around Dundalk.
The second is encouraging residential development that is commensurate with the availability of public services and facilities locally.