An Bord Pleanála described as a ‘joke’ at council meeting

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council passes motion over loss of faith in planning board’s integrity

An Bord Pleanála has been called a “joke” at a meeting of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, where councillors passed a motion stating they had lost faith in the “integrity” of the planning board following recent controversy.

An investigation by Remy Farrell SC is ongoing into allegations of impropriety against An Bord Pleanála’s (ABP) deputy chairman Paul Hyde following allegations of undeclared conflicts of interest in Mr Hyde’s work.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, who commissioned the investigation, last month granted Mr Farrell an extension until the end of July to complete a report into the matter.

Mr Hyde has denied any impropriety and has temporarily stepped aside “without prejudice” to the investigation, as well as an internal Bord Pleanála review.

At a meeting on Monday councillors on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council passed a motion stating they believed the people of the south Dublin area had “lost faith” in the “independence and integrity” of the board.

The motion, which was unanimously passed, directed that the council write to Mr O’Brien to highlight its concerns with the planning body. It also called on him to take steps to “re-establish trust” in the State body.

Speaking at the meeting, Labour Party councillor Lettie McCarthy said she had “no faith” in An Bord Pleanála and described the planning board as a “joke”. Ms McCarthy was critical that there had been cases where the council’s rejection of planning applications for large housing developments were later overturned by the board.

The “lack of faith” in the planning board had “muddied the water” around its role dealing with a fast-track scheme for large scale housing developments, said Green Party councillor Daniel Dunne. He said the current system of the Minister for Housing appointing the members of An Bord Pleanála’s board was not “up to scratch anymore” and should be overhauled.

Social Democrats councillor Dave Quinn said the “failure of An Bord Pleanála to maintain trust and its integrity in recent times is really extremely damaging to the State”.

Fine Gael councillor Jim Gildea said it was crucial the planning system worked in a “very transparent manner”, adding there had been a “failure” for the body to regulate itself.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times