An Bord Pleanála has received evidence of a romantic relationship in the organisation that could have impacted on board decisions and procedures, according to an internal report. The alleged relationship is one of a litany of concerns raised in the report about misgovernance issues at the board in recent years.
- Cases were identified in which an applicant or appellant to the planning body was well known to a board member or senior staff member involved in the case;
- In a number of cases, files were allocated to and handled by board members in locations from which those members indicated, on taking up their positions, they should be excluded;
- In a raft of cases, two-person boards decided on planning for major housing schemes under the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) system, contrary to the legal requirements that at least three members should comprise the deciding body;
- Files for SHD cases, which tend to be complex, were not predominantly allocated to the more senior inspectors in An Bord Pleanála, as per long-standing practice.
The report also references a number of governance issues that have been reported in the media, including the Irish Examiner.
Among these is that in 147 cases involving telecommunication masts, the same two board members decided on more than two thirds of these cases, contrary to the practice of rotating board members for such decisions.
In one in every four of these cases, the two board members departed from the inspector’s recommendation to deny planning.
The report also notes that in up to a dozen SHD cases there was a potential conflict of interest involving a board member and the director of one of the companies associated with the application.
The report is the third to be completed into issues of governance in An Bord Pleanála since the controversy emerged last March.