Pressure on minister to release reviews as top planner resigns

Pressure is mounting for the housing minister and An Bord Pleanála to release separate reports on alleged conflicts of interest following the resignation of the planning board’s deputy chair.

Aul Hyde, the second most senior civil servant, resigned from his post on Friday after months of allegations of alleged conflicts of interest over some of his decisions.

A solicitor’s review of some of the allegations, commissioned by Minister Darragh O’Brien, is expected to be completed in a few weeks. On board Pleanála has also conducted its own internal review of Mr Hyde’s planning decisions.

Mr Hyde, who unabashedly resigned from his role at the start of the investigation, has denied the allegations.

Opposition parties yesterday urged the minister to publish the reviews as soon as possible following Mr Hyde’s resignation.

Catherine Murphy, Kildare TD and Social Democrat co-leader, said: “If An Bord Pleanála is to have any chance of regaining public trust, they must act openly and transparently. The results of their internal review should be made public.”

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó’Broin said the problems at An Bord Pleanála run “deeper than one person”.

He said there are implications for the sub-panel on the board that decides on strategic housing developments, Chairman David Walsh and the organization’s executive branch.

“Paul Hyde’s resignation comes as no surprise but is in stark contrast to his earlier claims that he had done nothing wrong,” he said. A great deal of information has become public since the Hyde controversy erupted.

“There are both cultural and governance issues that need to be addressed if public trust in this important public body is to be restored.”

He said the minister must publish the lawyer’s report immediately and set out what action he intends to take.

Senator Rebecca Moynihan, Labor Party spokeswoman on housing, said it was “crucial” that the minister speed up the release of the report following Mr Hyde’s resignation.

“It is important that people have full confidence in the planning process. So if the report reveals systemic and seismic issues in An Bord Pleanála, they need to be addressed.

“Transparency and fairness are the foundation of any democracy and trust in the planning system is absolutely essential.”

Mr O’Brien retained Remy Farrell to review a small number of specific planning cases in which Mr Hyde was said to have had conflicts of interest. He was also asked to verify that Mr Hyde had correctly disclosed “all relevant interests”, including economic interests, assets and business activities, to the board.

Mr Farrell was given six weeks to complete his report, but he applied for and was granted a five-week extension late last month.

Mr Farrell’s new completion date is July 29th.

The Office of the Planning Regulator is scheduled to initiate a third review of the procedures and processes at An Bord Pleanála once Mr Farrell’s report is finalized. It will consider “patterns of decision-making and amendments to the inspectors’ report submitted to the Board”.

On board Pleanála has been under scrutiny since the news website, The ditchpublished allegations of conflicts of interest related to Paul Hyde and expanded its reporting to include other alleged violations of the planning authority’s strict code of conduct. Pressure on minister to release reviews as top planner resigns

Fry Electronics Team

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