Fresh start needed for An Bórd Pleanála to restore public confidence

by Rose Barrett
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A fresh start, a complete clean slate is what is needed to restore the public’s confidence in An Bórd Pleanála (ABP) claims Deputy Ó Broin (SF).

The Deputy for Dublin Mid-West stated this can only be achieved with a significant change of its membership. His comments were made during a Dáil debate on Thursday, September 15 last.

Deputy Ó Broin stated ABP is in deep crisis “caused by an avalanche of revelations in the media, regarding conflicts of interest, improper decision-making and breaches of internal procedures.” 

In July last, Mr Paul Hyde tendered his resignation as Deputy Chair of ABP, in advance of findings by Senior Counsel Remy Farrell regarding allegations of conflicts of interest pertaining to several planning decisions made during his term with ABP (the state’s ‘impartial’ planning appeals body). 

Several public representatives and local residents’ associations called on Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien TD at the time to suspend all planning decisions taken by its former Deputy Chair and to engage in consultation with affected communities.

Deputy Ó Broin noted: “These revelations related to seven members of An Bord Pleanála, which have led to three inquiries, one resignation, possible criminal proceedings, no-confidence motions in a number of local authorities and a dramatic loss of public confidence.

“An Bord Pleanála has also suffered from bad planning policy from government, including the conflict between central government mandatory ministerial guidelines and city and county development plans.” 

Strategic Housing Development (SHD) applications have been objected to across many Dublin communities, many for obscenely high development of build to rent (BTR) apartment blocks which in turn “have led to a dramatic increase in legal challenges to ABP decisions, lost judicial reviews and significant increase in legal costs,” said the SF Deputy.  

Deputy O’Bróin called on Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien TD to urgently act to restore public confidence in the Bord’s work.

“This,” he said, “can only be achieved with a significant change of its membership. Responsibility starts at the top, and Minister O’Brien must be bold in doing what is necessary to restore confidence in An Bord Pleanála’s work.”

The SF TD stated there should be forward legislation to change the way in which Bord members are appointed, to strengthen its internal governance, independence and adherence to procedures.

“We also need to see wider changes to the planning system including the repeal of the mandatory ministerial guidelines on apartment standards and building heights, adequate resourcing of An Bord Pleanála to ensure timely decisions, statutory timelines for decisions.

“Furthermore, we need a dedicated and resourced Planning and Environmental Court to ensure that legal challenges are dealt with in an appropriate time frame,” concluded Deputy O’Bróin.

See full debate here:

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