Members of Cork City Council have expressed no confidence in the board of An Bord Pleanála, citing concerns that recent revelations about senior board members have undermined confidence in the entire planning system.
Several councillors also called for the board to be disbanded.
The calls came during a debate on a motion of no confidence which was agreed at Monday’s council meeting and was tabled by Green Party Cllrs Oliver Moran and Colette Finn, and An Rabharta Glas Cllr Lorna Bogue.
They asked councillors to reaffirm the motion of no confidence in the board which was passed by the council on July 13, 2020.
The motion was moved by Cllr Paudie Dineen in relation to a development that the board had approved, contrary to the city’s own development plan, and which approved building on land zoned for sporting use.
Mr Moran said there have been concerning several reports in recent weeks about senior board officials.
“We’ve learned that a board member of An Bord Pleanála did not recuse himself from deliberation of a proposal in the Blackpool area, despite having a financial interest in a neighbouring site — and the board conceding a court challenge claiming 'objective bias' by it in relation to this proposal,” he said.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has appointed a senior counsel to examine this and another decision, involving two members of the board.
He referenced the coverage of the board's operations and nomination process.'s
“These have cast a serious doubt over the proper functioning of the board’s appointment system and even the providence of nominations,” he said.
And he said the High Court has published its ruling in relation to the proposal to build an incinerator at Ringaskiddy, and how An Bord Pleanála treated the presentation of irregularities in environmental data in that case.
Thanks to work by Dr Gordon Reid, the High Court found that the board failed to comply with the Planning and Development Act and that “the decision of the Board ... was irrational and/or acted contrary to common sense”
“How can a local authority have confidence in a Board that has never-ending questions about its operation like these around it?” Mr Moran said.
Solidarity Cllr Fiona Ryan backed the motion and said: “As much pressure as we and all bodies can bring to fix what is, I believe, a fundamentally compromised system must be brought to bear.”
Veteran Fianna Fáil Cllr Terry Shannon said the board should be disbanded.
He said people already had a certain lack of confidence in the planning process at that the recent revelations have “copperfastened that point of view”.
“Planning has to be as transparent and accountable as possible,” he said.
And while the minister's enquiry must be allowed to proceed, Mr Shannon said it does “lead us now into a quagmire”, calling into question many, if not all of the decisions that those against whom allegations have been mad have adjudicated over.