Dale Farm £40m Cookstown investment ‘held up by energy problems’

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster praises lowering numbers of jobless
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster praises lowering numbers of jobless

Sinn Fein is calling for an urgent meeting with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, claiming that a £40m investment to Dale Farm’s Cookstown facility is being held back due to lack of energy supply.

David Dobbin, chief executive of Dale Farm, said his firm wanted to expand its plant at Cookstown, Co Tyrone.

He said it was “frustrating” to be told to move the project east of the river Bann.

“We want to put a £40m investment into Cookstown. We’ve got Invest NI support, we’ve government support, we’ve got our planning – we can’t go. We’re waiting now until gas comes, because the electricity [suppliers] can’t help us.”

He told the BBC there was “not enough capacity in the grid to allow us to take more electricity”.

Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy said: “The constituencies west of the Bann, which we represent, are already suffering from decades of discrimination and under investment. The minister must act now. Along with NIE, gas providers and Invest NI she needs to ensure that companies have proper access to energy in order to attract investment.”

A Department of Enterprise spokeswoman said extending the gas network to the west is a priority and it will administer grant assistance up to £32.5m for the project. “The Minister met Northern Ireland Electricity last week and discussed a range of issues, including the costs of businesses to get connected to the grid and the impact on business in NI‎,” she said. The Minister “shares Dale Farm’s frustration”, she added.