€4m food innovation campus gets planning approval

Planning permission for a €4 million food and innovation campus in Athenry was approved last week.

Galway County councillors voted unanimously to pass the Part 8 planning stage, following a recommendation from the Council’s Chief Executive, Kevin Kelly.

The hub will be 27,000 square feet, according to Alan Farrell, director of services, and will be located on a 1.8 hectares site at Ballygarraun West within the existing Teagasc Mellows Campus in Athenry.

The approval is for a campus with three buildings. One is a two-storey learning centre referred to as ‘Bia Eolas’, which will contain a reception area, showcase room, meeting room, offices and toilets. It will also have four single-storey “co-working food laboratories for food innovation and product development”.

A separate building will have three units for “high potential start-up” food businesses. Each unit will have food production areas, food stores, chill areas, office, staff and changing facilities. Another building will house nine incubation units for food businesses. There will also be a single storey “hygienic refuse storage building”.

There were no third-party submissions or objections to the development.

Councillor Gabe Cronnelly (SF) said the hub would be a welcome addition to Athenry, and a boost for the town. Councillor Karey McHugh (Ind) said Galway was the European Region of Gastronomy in 2018 and this development could be a lasting legacy for that designation.

Some €2.5 million has already been pledged by Government to the development through the Enterprise Ireland Regional Enterprise Development Fund. Mr Kelly advised County Councillors that the project would require more capital funding from the County Council and he would come back to them again for funding approval.

The BIA Innovator Campus is predicted to create at least 360 jobs in over 40 businesses in the food and drinks industry, injecting over €11.5m in payroll in the region and facilitating the development of 500 new products across the West of Ireland.