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Graham's warns plan could be scrapped

£20m dairy site revealed, but needs homes to make it viable

Robert GrahamDairy firm Graham’s has revealed that a long-planned £20 million extension will be built on farmland west of Craigforth, but has warned that it will not go ahead unless a housing development on land it owns nearby is given the go ahead.

The plant – which has been on the drawing board for at least four years – will occupy land directly opposite the Scottish Agricultural Centre. It will include production lines for milk, cream, cheese and butter, as well as a research and training centre.

It will extend the 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.

If approved, the new facility will mean the existing dairy will concentrate on butter and ice cream and remain the Graham’s family home. It will add 450 jobs, including 50 apprentices, taking Graham’s payroll to 900.

Robert Graham, managing director and grandson of the founder, said the venture is dependent on the council backing a 600-home development at Airthrey Kerse which will provide the necessary capital, but which has been the subject of local opposition.

The company has orked with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Stirling Council since December 2011 to address concerns raised over flood risk, sustainable water management and delivering improvements to the neighbouring area.

“We will not borrow the sums required to finance this venture,” said Mr Graham. “This would place the whole business, 500 staff, 98 farming partners and their families, and all those who rely upon us at risk.

“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.

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

The Scottish Rural Affairs and Climate Change committee recommended in February that investment in the dairy sector is essential and Graham’s plans come ahead of a debate on the industry in Holyrood tomorrow.

Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, said: “This is a real vote of confidence in the future of the Scottish dairy sector and I’ve no doubt this exciting project will help Graham’s The Family Dairy cement their reputation as one of our leading dairy companies and brands.

“The Dairy Action Plan which I launched just 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.”

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