A contentious An Bord Pleanála decision to grant permission for a large-scale student accommodation complex in Dún Laoghaire was signed by deputy board chairman Paul Hyde and the case may now be subject to review, the board has said.
The board last January granted permission to Baker Forge Properties for the 276-bed student accommodation scheme at Baker’s Corner, despite the strong recommendation of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to refuse permission.
Mr Hyde signed off on the decision on January 25th at a meeting attended by fellow board members Michelle Fagan and Terry Ó Niadh. Board documents state no conflict of interest was identified at the time the decision was made.
Mr Hyde’s work is undergoing two separate examinations following allegations of impropriety in his personal declarations to the planning appeals body, which he has denied.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien in April commissioned senior counsel Remy Farrell to examine the claims. Separately the board is undertaking an internal review of decisions made by Mr Hyde.
Mr Hyde stepped aside temporarily from his role last month “without prejudice” to the two examinations, insisting that recent allegations of impropriety in his personal declarations to An Bord Pleanála were groundless.
In a letter seen by The Irish Times the board confirms the Baker’s Corner decision was signed by Mr Hyde and said “the case may be within a category of cases to be reviewed”.
The letter was sent to a Monkstown residents’ association which had asked for clarification from board chairman Dave Walsh of Mr Hyde’s involvement in the student housing case, and sought a representative of the board to attend a community meeting to address concerns about the decision.
In response the board said it did not comment or elaborate on cases beyond its published rationale for a decision, and it did not accept invitations to attend community meetings following the issuing of a decision. While case may be within a category of cases to be reviewed, it said, that would not alter this position.
The six-storey student complex, at the junction of Rochestown Avenue and Kill Avenue beside the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, involves the demolition of the well-known Baker’s Corner pub and the construction of a replacement pub and two commercial units along with the 276 student bed spaces.
Planning consultants Brock McClure, representing the developer, said the scheme would address “the significant need for student accommodation in Dublin city and Ireland”.
The council’s planners had asked the board to refuse the Baker’s Corner Strategic Housing Development (SHD) scheme due to its scale and mass, which they said would be visually overbearing and obtrusive. Local residents, politicians and An Taisce had also opposed the scheme.
However, the board determined the development constituted an acceptable quantum and density of development in this “accessible urban location” and “would not seriously injure the residential or visual amenities of the area”.
Allegations made against Mr Hyde centre on claims made that he was conflicted in some planning decisions as well as his personal property investments, his debts and his statutory declarations to the planning appeals body.
Mr Farrell is expected to conclude his investigations and present a report to Mr O’Brien by June 24th. The board’s examination of cases is expected to conclude the same week.
The board did not respond to queries on the Baker’s Corner decision.