Graham’s warns of risks to £20m dairy plan

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GRAHAM’S The Family Dairy has reiterated its warning that plans to build a £20 million dairy, research and training facility in Stirling, which has the potential to create 450 jobs, could be scuppered if a controversial housing plan does not get the green light.

The family-run business aims to create a 150,000aq ft facility on farmland located west of Craigforth, directly opposite Stirling’s Agriculture Centre, and is due to submit a planning application within coming months. As well as production lines for milk, cream, cheese and spreadable butter, the site would feature a dedicated research and training centre to allow for new product development.

Robert Graham said Craigforth scheme hinged on housing plan. Picture: Jane Barlow

Robert Graham said Craigforth scheme hinged on housing plan. Picture: Jane Barlow

Graham’s said the new facility has the potential to bring an additional £20m a year into the Stirling economy and would be in addition to its current dairy at Airthrey Kerse in Bridge of Allan, its processing plant in Nairn and depots throughout Scotland. A full planning application will be lodged to Stirling Council in June following a period of public consultation.

Richard Lochhead, the cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and environment, said: “This proposal from Graham’s The Family Dairy is fantastic news for the dairy industry in Scotland and for the local economy.

“I particularly welcome the development of new research and development facilities which will put Scotland at the forefront of developing innovative new dairy products and in the right place to respond to changes in consumer behaviour.”

Lochhead said that the 25-point “dairy action plan” he launched last week “has a real focus on supporting investment in our processing capacity and this announcement confirms that Graham’s share our vision about the exciting market opportunities that are available for our dairy industry”.

However, Graham’s managing director Robert Graham said: “The £20m capital expenditure for our new dairy is subject to the outcome of our Airthrey Green development proposals currently sitting with Stirling Council. This exciting and much-needed housing and amenity project on our land at Airthrey Kerse would provide significant capital to strategically invest in the long-term future of our business.”

He added: “Should these not come forward then Graham’s will have to continue a multi-site investment programme across Scotland that would inevitably be at the expense of the Stirling economy.”

Graham’s and housing developer Mactaggart & Mickel have submitted a joint planning application to Stirling Council to build 600 houses at Airthrey Green between Bridge of Allan and Causewayhead.

When the housing proposals were announced last year, Mark Ruskell, Green councillor for Bridge of Allan, said: “Graham’s Dairy has a formidable track record in attracting capital investment already without needing to overturn planning policy to deliver deeply unpopular housing developments on the green belt.”

The Scottish Parliament will today debate Lochhead’s action plan, which seeks to “improve the resilience” of a sector that encompasses 900 dairy farms and 2,000 processing employees.