An Bord Pleanála (ABP) is examining whether up to 20 provisional planning rulings involving its deputy chairman Paul Hyde should be reopened for fresh consideration by other board members because of the controversy surrounding his work.
The question is under discussion in a widening internal review triggered by allegations of impropriety in Mr Hyde’s personal declarations to the planning appeals body, which he has denied.
The review is also examining planning cases involving Mr Hyde’s brother Stefan Hyde, a fire-safety expert. These include “less than 10” cases in which Stefan Hyde was a consultant for ABP itself, and several large-scale fast-track housing applications which included documentation from Stefan Hyde.
Paul Hyde is chairman of the ABP division which handles fast-track cases under strategic housing development (SHD) laws. He stepped down temporarily in May “without prejudice” to that review and the findings of a separate senior counsel’s inquiry for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.
He has always insisted claims that he had undeclared conflicts of interests in certain decisions were groundless. The ABP review and the inquiry by Remy Farrell SC are each scheduled to conclude in three weeks.
Mr Hyde remained in situ for almost a fortnight after Mr O’Brien asked Mr Farrell to investigate the allegations, taking part as usual in planning deliberations before the board. At issue now is whether provisional decisions handed down in such cases but not yet finalised should be reopened.
Between 10 and 20 cases are under scrutiny, possibly including some SHD applications but also smaller appeal cases. The discussion was prompted by anxiety about the wider controversy rather than any specific concern about any particular cases Mr Hyde worked on in that period.
“Cases that were considered at board level and may have been the subject of provisional decision – and which involved Paul Hyde as one of the board members – are being reviewed in the context of the question as to whether they should be the subject of further consideration by a differently-constituted board,” said a spokesman for ABP.
That question will ultimately be settled by ABP chairman Dave Walsh.
Hundreds of planning cases involving Mr Hyde are under scrutiny in the internal review.
Unlike in cases where a provisional ruling is made but not yet finalised, ABP has no scope under planning law nor any procedures to reopen any cases in which the final decision was settled. Such decisions can be challenged only in the courts and only before specific deadlines pass.
Other questions under review centre on the legal prohibition on any ABP board member continuing in office if they enter a “composition or arrangement” with creditors, a composition being a deal in which creditors agree to accept a proportion of what is owed to them instead of the entire amount.
Mr Hyde has told the Minister he was never “offered or entered into” such a deal but at least one High Court against him and co-defendants featured property that was in receivership, raising question about the status of his debts.