An Bord Pleanála to concede judicial review amid Paul Hyde conflict of interest claims 

An Bord Pleanála to concede judicial review amid Paul Hyde conflict of interest claims 

An Bord Pleanála is to concede a legal challenge in a case being investigated for a potential conflict of interest on the part of the board’s deputy chairperson Paul Hyde. 

The judicial review legal challenge was based on the allegation that Mr Hyde had not declared a conflict of interest when involved in a large-scale planning decision on the northside of Cork city. 

It is highly unusual for An Bord Pleanála to concede any challenge of this nature ahead of a full court hearing. 

The case is due before the High Court on Monday, but the company challenging the decision was informed on Friday evening that the board would be conceding.

The board decision, the first to come to light about potential conflicts of interest linked to Mr Hyde, concerns an application for 191 apartments in Blackpool, Cork City, on the old Hewitt's Distillery site. 

Mr Hyde was chair of the three-person board decision in March to reject planning permission for the development. 

Paul Hyde was chair of the board that rejected planning permission for apartments in Blackpool, Cork. It emerged that a company in which he has shares owns a site less than 50m from the proposed development.
Paul Hyde was chair of the board that rejected planning permission for apartments in Blackpool, Cork. It emerged that a company in which he has shares owns a site less than 50m from the proposed development.

It later emerged that a company in which he has a 25% shareholding — his father has the other 75% of the company — owns a site less than 50 metres from the proposed development.

Mr Hyde has told the chair of An Bord Pleanála that he did not believe any conflict arose as the family company, H20, was “dormant” with a “zero balance sheet”. 

However, the company which had its planning application rejected, Eichsfeld Ltd, launched a judicial review over what it claimed was Mr Hyde’s failure to declare the interest. 

The challenge also included an affidavit from one of Eichsfeld’s directors, the former Irish rugby international Frankie Sheehan.

In response to a query from the Irish Examiner  yesterday, Gerard Egan, head of corporate affairs at An Bord Pleanála, confirmed that the board would not be opposing the challenge.

“Having regard to the ongoing current public commentary in respect of this decision, An Bord Pleanála (ABP) prioritised consideration of this challenge in consultation with its legal advisers," he said.

Following consideration of legal advice, ABP then decided that it would concede the case against it on the basis that its planning decision should be set aside on the grounds of objective bias.

With ABP conceding the judicial review, the case is now most likely to return to the board to make a fresh decision on the application.

The Blackpool development is one of three board decisions involving Mr Hyde which are the focus of an inquiry by a senior counsel into the allegations of a conflict of interest on the part of Mr Hyde. 

Remy Farrell was appointed to examine allegations against An Bord Pleanála deputy chairperson Paul Hyde. Picture: Collins Courts
Remy Farrell was appointed to examine allegations against An Bord Pleanála deputy chairperson Paul Hyde. Picture: Collins Courts

Remy Farrell was appointed by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to examine this case, along with a decision on an appeal for home extensions in Sandymount in Dublin made by Mr Hyde’s sister-in-law. 

The third case concerned the rejection of a development proposal in Carrigtwohill, East Cork. 

The Farrell investigation will also look at Mr Hyde’s personal property investments and debts and whether any engagements with creditors breached the terms of his employment with ABP. 

It can be an offence for members of ABP not to declare a beneficial interest in a decision and laws also govern any engagement by board members with creditors. 

Mr Farrell has been told to take account of “any criminal prosecution” that may be affected by his report and that, in turn, could lead to issues over whether or not the report will be published in full.

Review of decisions

Separately, the board has announced that it is conducting a review of decisions made by Mr Hyde. 

A qualified planner and architect from Cork, Mr Hyde is a friend of Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who appointed him to the board of the Marine Institute in 2012. 

He was appointed to ABP by then minister for the environment Phil Hogan in 2014 and was elevated to deputy chair in 2019.

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