Government to approve major overhaul of An Bord Pleanála 

Government to approve major overhaul of An Bord Pleanála 

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will bring an action plan to reform An Bord Pleanála, which has been dogged by controversy in recent months.

The Government will on Tuesday approve a major overhaul in the function of the embattled An Bord Pleanála, including how board members are appointed.

The Irish Examiner has confirmed that Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will bring what he is calling an action plan (and associated legislation) to reform An Bord Pleanála, which has been dogged by controversy in recent months surrounding some of its decisions.

Among the range of measures included in the action plan are:

  • A new regime of recruitment for board appointments — the nomination process will be replaced entirely;
  • An increase in the potential number of board members — up to 14 ordinary members may be appointed as necessary;
  • An end to the two-person panels of adjudication, by removing the power for the board to reduce the quorum of three;
  • Amendments to the complaints procedures; providing clear instructions on the actions to be taken on receipt of a complaint.

According to the action plan, seen by the Irish Examiner, the capability of An Bord Pleanála to make decisions at variance with a development plan will be limited.

It is also understood that the new legislation will mean the Office of the Planning Regulator will be empowered to consider customer complaints in relation to systemic issues relating to the board.

Mr O’Brien is satisfied that to improve the workings of the board, additional resources must be provided to it.

It is also planned that new posts at senior management level will be granted to improve the operational ability of An Bord Pleanála.

Code of conduct

Under the new plans, the board will be required to update its code of conduct, employ new compliance procedures, and have stronger corporate governance at senior management level.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil senator Timmy Dooley believes the judicial review system mechanism within the planning appeals process needs to be examined.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Dooley says the planning system, and the ability to undertake judicial reviews of An Bord Pleanála’s decisions, is getting in the way of development.

The chair of An Bord Pleanála told staff that allegations and media commentary about their work had been “hugely disruptive and disquieting”.

In a memo sent to employees, Dave Walsh said they had been under the spotlight during a “few very difficult weeks” amid serious allegations about their work.

He said it had been “significantly damaging” and had undermined their reputation and integrity in the minds of the public.

The independent review of An Bord Pleanála recommended referring the controversy to gardaí over concerns about the authority’s former deputy chair Paul Hyde’s failure to declare certain assets. Mr Hyde has always denied any impropriety.

Senior counsel Remy Farrell recommended sending the report to gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecution over concerns about Mr Hyde potentially breaching the Planning and Development Act.

The legislation says a member of the board must declare “particulars of every interest” relevant to their role and give fresh updates if they acquire new assets while serving with the authority.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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