A High Court judge has ruled that allegations about potential bias on the part of former An Bord Pleanála deputy chair Paul Hyde can be admitted in a case taken against the construction of co-living apartments in Dublin.
Justice Richard Humphreys said that the "public interest is clearly engaged” by allowing the issues of bias to be raised in the case, and that it is for “the greater good” that the allegations should be allowed to be aired “given that integrity in public life is at issue”.
The case in question relates to a judicial review taken by Barry O’Lone, a man living across the road from a pub on Dublin’s Old Navan Road, the demolition of which Mr Hyde approved for the purpose of constructing a 210-bed shared living development in December 2020.
Mr O’Lone had initially argued that the residential amenity and value of his home would be significantly adversely affected by the development, notably in terms of car parking spaces in the area potentially being swamped by the residents of the new development.
Judge Humphreys' ruling however relates to Mr O’Lone’s application to amend his statement of grounds for taking the judicial review in light of media reports about Mr Hyde’s alleged conflicts of interest which emerged in April 2022.
One news piece, published by online news outlet The Ditch, had asserted that the Navan Road application lodged by developers Bartra was one of at least six cases involving Mr Hyde dating from 2019 and 2020 in which the fire engineering firm in which his brother Stefan Hyde is a partner had been engaged for the provision of professional services.
Mr O’Lone had stated he first became aware of that reporting in August 2022 and now wished to amend his own case in order to draw attention to the facts outlined about Mr Hyde’s alleged lack of impartiality.
His new grounds for taking the case assert that Mr Hyde “was not duly authorised to determine the application” due to his having failed to acknowledge the potential conflict of interest comprised by his brother’s firm having provided services to the developer.
Justice Humphreys said two overriding factors were at issue — the fact that An Bord Pleanála had failed to object in any way to Mr O’Lone’s amendment and “the public interest in upholding integrity in public life”.
On the former, the judge said this amendment “is very personal to the board” given its allegation of a “direct conflict of interest” on the part of Mr Hyde.
“It would be a complete distortion of the process not to attach great significance and weight to the lack of objection from the body whose internal ethical requirements and external integrity obligations were said to have been disregarded or violated,” Justice Humphreys said.
Regarding the issue of integrity, the judge said “there is public interest in the investigation of such matters”, notably in terms of “statutory decision-making in particular”.
Mr O’Lone now has two weeks to file his amended statement of grounds ahead of the case proceeding to a full hearing.
Mr Hyde was appointed deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála in January 2019, but resigned from the board last July after controversy emerged concerning his conduct in his role, the results of an investigation of which currently sees him facing prosecution by the State.