Public confidence in planning system must be restored
Further questions surrounding the workings of An Bord Pleanála require urgent answers from the Office of the Planning Regulator, the chair of the board and the Minister for Housing, according to Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan.
Deputy O’Callaghan, the party’s spokesperson on Housing, said:
“It is lamentable that we are only having a debate about maladministration in An Bord Pleanála as a result of some excellent investigative journalism, as opposed to proper oversight by the authorities.
“Many issues that have come into the public domain through media reports demonstrate that a deeper probe into the planning appeals board and other State bodies will be required in the public interest.
“There have been clear failures, not just by An Bord Pleanála, but also by the Office of the Planning Regulator, which seemingly did not act on credible and detailed complaints they received last November.
“The Minister for Housing must also clarify why he has not sought an investigation into other members of the board relating to alleged conflicts of interest and other matters.
“It is completely unacceptable and wholly inappropriate that the only investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by other board members is an internal review being conducted by An Bord Pleanála itself.
“Of particular concern is that a whole raft of recommendations from inspectors to refuse permission for communication masts were ignored by two-person boards, with the vast majority involving decisions by the same two members.
“We also need to know why the chair of An Bord Pleanála did not notice that two-member boards were making decisions on Strategic Housing Developments when the Planning (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 explicitly says that a quorum of three is required for SHD division meetings.
“The fact that An Bord Pleanála spent €8.2m defending itself against legal challenges in relation to SHD decisions should have set off alarm bells with both the chair of the board and the Minister.
“While the Office of the Planning Regulator has commenced an independent probe into the governance and handling of case files at An Bord Pleanála, the investigation must be sufficiently robust and transparent to restore public confidence in our planning system.”
September 15, 2022