Former senior Bord Pleanála official pleads guilty over failure to declare property interests

Ex-deputy chair Paul Hyde faced two counts related to breaches while on board

Paul Hyde, former An Bord Pleanála deputy chairman, arrives to Skibberenn District Court on Tuesday. Photograph: Andy Gibson.

The former deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála has pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to declare his interests in a number of properties when an officer of the board in breach of planning law requirements.

Paul Hyde (50), of Castlefields, Baltimore, Co Cork, had been summonsed to appear at Skibbereen District Court on Tuesday on nine breaches of Section 147 of the Planning Development Act 2000 which required him as an officer of the board to declare all properties registered to him.

Prosecution barrister John Berry said that the declaration had to be made on an annual basis and the nine summonses related to separate offences for the years 2014 to 2022 but Mr Hyde was pleading guilty to two offences in 2015 and 2018 on the basis of all the facts being given to the court.

Mr Hyde was appointed a member of An Bord Pleanála in 2014 and became deputy chairman in January 2019 before resigning in July 2022, so the offences to which he pleaded guilty relate to his time as an ordinary member of the board rather than his term as deputy chairman.


Det Sgt Shane Curtis of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau told how he had been appointed to investigate Mr Hyde’s declaration of interest after two articles about Mr Hyde’s declaration of interests were published on The Ditch website and The Village magazine.

One of the articles had been sent to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, who has responsibility for An Bord Pleanála, and he appointed senior counsel Remy Farrell to carry out a review of An Bord Pleanála while gardaí were separately tasked with examining Mr Hyde’s declaration of interests.

He said he found Hyde had listed a series of properties in 2015 in which he had interest, including four houses at Pope’s Hill and two houses in Douglas, all in Cork city, a house in Baltimore in Co Cork , an apartment in Castletroy in Limerick and a site with planning permission in Rathduff in Co Cork.

However, he had failed to include a small plot of land at the Pope’s Hill registered to the Hyde Partnership set up with his father, Stephen, and this was in breach of the requirement under Section 147 of the Planning and Development Act.*

He said that ownership of this plot of land – described by Mr Hyde in interview with Mr Farrell as “a ransom strip” – was registered to a company at Sir John’s Rogerson Quay in Dublin on May 1st, 2019, though it may it have been transferred from the Hyde Partnership in 2017.

The term “ransom strip” refers generally to a small piece of land near a development that has little value on its own but may have value because of its use to the owners of adjacent property.

He said that in his 2018 return, Hyde failed to include all the properties that he had listed in 2015 save for one of the properties in Douglas and the property in Baltimore, which were exempted as they were principal properties, and this again amounted to a breach of the regulations.

Mr Berry told Judge James McNulty that under the Planning and Development Act 2002, failure to declare an interest in properties when an officer of An Bord Pleanála was a summary offence that carried a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a fine of €5,000.

Defence barrister Paula McCarthy said regarding the 2015 breach, her client had conflated the An Bord Pleanála code of conduct, which had a threshold value for declarations, and the planning regulations which had no threshold and he thought the plot of land came in below the threshold.

She said Hyde’s failure in 2018 to declare the same list of properties he had listed in previous years was because the properties had gone into receivership in 2017. He had no control over them and thought they were exempt even though they were not because he remained the registered owner.

Ms McCarthy said that her client was a qualified architect who had been unemployed since he resigned from An Bord Pleanála in July 2022, and she pointed out that he did not gain financially in any way from his offending which had proven detrimental for him both professionally and personally.

She said that he had no previous convictions of any kind and had indicated at an early stage that he would be pleading guilty and by his plea, he had saved the state the cost and time of a complex trial which was a significant mitigation factor for which he deserved credit.

Ms McCarthy acknowledged Hyde’s offending was “a serious offence” but she asked Judge McNulty to be as lenient as possible and while it was a big ask, she questioned whether he might consider not recording a conviction against her client as it would have serious consequence for him.

Mr Berry told Judge McNulty that he was not aware of any previous prosecutions for failing to make declarations under the Planning and Development Act even though there had been comparable prosecutions for failing to make declarations under the Standards in Public Office regulations.

Judge McNulty said that he had much to consider and said he would give his decision on Friday at Bandon District Court but said it would be very optimistic for Hyde to think that he might obtain the benefit of the Probation Act and avoid a conviction as he viewed it as a very serious offence.

*Article amended at 1.15pm on June 29th, 2023

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times