The Government has approved plans to allow temporary members to be appointed to the board of An Bord Pleánala and to reform the investigative powers of its chairman.
Cabinet approved plans from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on Tuesday to amend the Planning and Development and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill at committee stage with a range of reforms to the operation of the beleaguered planning body.
The amended bill, once adopted, will allow for the Minister for Housing to appoint serving or former civil servants, public servants or board employees to the board for up to a year. The move is part of a bid to overcome turmoil in the planning system and political concerns over the growing backlog of planning cases before the body.
Recent board departures have weakened its capacity to work through files. Deputy chairman Paul Hyde resigned in July, and two other members saw their terms end in September, meaning there were only five ordinary members instead of the usual nine.
Cabinet also agreed to increase the size of the board to a maximum of 14, and to allow for virtual or blended meetings of the board.
The chairperson’s investigative powers will be reformed by the removal of the requirement to form an opinion about a complaint received in advance of an investigation. Instead, the Government said in a statement that “clear instructions will be provided on the actions to be taken on receipt of a complaint or where the chairperson considers there may be issues to be investigated”.
Provision is also being made to allow for the appointment of an interim chairperson for up to a year when the chairperson’s role is vacant, and to allow for a deputy chairperson to perform any functions of a chairperson during a vacancy.