An Bord Pleanála decision bodies to be overhauled in bid to restore public confidence

Measures follow resignation of the board’s deputy chairman Paul Hyde amid inquiries into alleged conflicts of interest

The Government is poised to scrap two-person decision boards at An Bord Pleanála (ABP), ending a practice that was in place for a decade before controversy engulfed the planning appeals body earlier this year.

The move is part of an overhaul of the planning body’s board by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, in an attempt to revive public confidence. The measures follow the resignation during the summer of Paul Hyde as ABP deputy chairman and aim to strengthen disciplinary and complaints procedures.

According to a person familiar with the plan, the Minister wants Cabinet backing to change how ABP board appointments are made and to allow up to 14 people to sit on it. Usually there are 10 board members, but at the moment there are only six.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is reviewing a Garda file on Mr Hyde and a decision is anticipated within days on whether to prosecute him following a Garda investigation into claims of impropriety in his work.


Mr Hyde, who denied any wrongdoing, resigned in July amid inquiries into alleged conflicts of interest in some of his decisions. One centred on a Dublin 4 case taken by his sister-in-law, but he claimed no knowledge of the family link.

Separately, the findings of an internal ABP review of Mr Hyde’s work and “further allegations of wrongdoing” have gone for legal review before being sent this week to the organisation’s chairman, Dave Walsh. This “concise” internal report, five months in the making, is said run to less than 50 pages.

The Office of the Planning Regulator is to issue a report on Tuesday after a legal review of ABP procedures that examined the allocation of files to board members.

Mr O’Brien will bring a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday seeking approval to impose a mandatory three-person quorum for all decision-making boards at ABP, which will require a change to legislation. Current planning law allows two-person boards instead of a three-person quorum in certain categories of decision once the wider ABP board approves such a change.

This practice was introduced early in 2012 and remained in wide use until Mr Walsh suspended it during the summer. The ABP board was scheduled this week to discuss a proposal to formally revoke its approval for two-person boards.

Mr O’Brien wants to change the rules under which the Minister makes ABP board appointments directly. While not depoliticising the process completely, he wants to set up an expert panel to recommend nominations for board posts to the Minister.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times