An Bord Pleanála official steps aside amid claims of impropriety

Paul Hyde temporarily vacates role as unease grows around undeclared conflict of interest

The second-highest official in An Bord Pleanála has temporarily stepped aside from his role amid growing disquiet in planning and political circles over claims of impropriety in his personal declarations to the planning authority.

Paul Hyde, deputy chairman of the organisation since 2019, had insisted the allegations made against him were groundless. On Friday, however, he acknowledged an undeclared conflict of interest when signing off a decision in an appeal taken by his sister-in-law.

Despite mounting concern in planning circles the affair was damaging An Bord Pleanála, he had continued in his role for almost a fortnight after Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien asked senior counsel Remy Farrell to report on the claims.

In a statement, An Bord Pleanála said: “In the context of these ongoing processes, Mr Paul Hyde has agreed with the chairperson to absent himself from his duties as deputy chairperson for the time being, on a strictly without prejudice basis.”


There was no further comment from the board, which previously noted Mr Hyde’s denial of allegations and promised co-operation with Mr Farrell.

Architect and planner

Mr O’Brien has yet to release terms of reference for the inquiry, although publication is said to be imminent.

“There would have been some discomfort around the fact that he was in effect still on the books,” said a source familiar with the mood in the planning authority. “We’re all shocked and really rattled by this.”

Mr Hyde, an architect and planner, was appointed to An Bord Pleanála eight years ago by then minister for the environment Phil Hogan. He once co-owned a yacht with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who previously appointed him to the board of the Irish Marine Institute.

His role in An Bord Pleanála was critical given his oversight of its strategic housing developments (SHD) division, which decides on fast-track applications for big housing schemes that bypass the local authority approval process.

The number of applications has risen as the scheduled expiry of the SHD laws approaches. The regime is contentious, with projects delayed by objectors challenging approvals in the High Court.

Brother’s house

Anxiety about the implications for An Bord Pleanála of the questions surrounding Mr Hyde had intensified when he disclosed he had not declared an interest last year in an appeal taken by a close family member.

He signed off on permission for works at the Dublin 4 house owned by his brother Stefan Hyde and Stefan’s wife Caroline Barron but insisted he did not know the cased centred on their Sandymount property. The matter came to light only after questions from The Irish Times and other media.

Although Mr Hyde argued it was not the practice to identify applicants or the exact address when such decisions were presented for sign-off, the board record from the case noted the Gilford Park address and the house number.

He previously acknowledged not declaring to An Bord Pleanála his quarter-share in a company – H20 Property Holdings Ltd – and certain lands but said there was no need to. The company has property near the site of a proposed apartment development in Blackpool, Cork, that was refused permission by An Bord Pleanála last month under the fast-track planning rules.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times