Report on An Bord Pleanála sent to Gardaí and DPP to consider criminal proceedings

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Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien has asked Gardaí and the Head of Public Prosecutions to examine the findings of a report into allegations of misconduct at An Bord Pleanála to determine whether criminal proceedings are warranted.

r O’Brien turned the report over to investigating officers on the advice of the Attorney General.

He also submitted it to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The report was prepared over several months by senior counsel Remy Farrell at the request of the minister following a series of media reports of alleged conflicts of interest in planning committee decision-making.

Vice-Chairman Paul Hyde resigned when Mr Farrell was appointed. However, Mr Hyde later announced his full resignation.

He has denied any suggestion that he allegedly breached his duties.

Mr O’Brien received Mr Farrell’s report late last month.

His department said tonight he had also asked the DPP for advice on whether it could be made public.

Pending such advice, the department said it was inappropriate for the minister to comment further.

However, the minister also announced that the Office of Planning Regulator would lead an independent organizational review of An Bord Pleanála.

The OPR is assisted by independent planning experts from outside the jurisdiction and Senior Counsel Conleth Bradley.

Mr O’Brien said the appointment process for board members will also be revised and the current process for appointing members will be discontinued.

He will present a plan to Cabinet in the coming weeks outlining a new appointment process, underpinned by new legislation.

In a further step, the minister is to approve a “significant increase in staff” for An Bord Pleanála.

“These additional staff will be hired along with the recommended organizational reforms outlined in the OPR review to create a fully operational body,” his department said.

Mr. O’Brien is still awaiting the completion of a separate internal report from a senior management team within An Bord Pleanála.

“It is expected that this internal report will investigate further allegations of misconduct.

“Mr O’Brien will decide on further course of action, including possible legislative changes, after reviewing this report,” his department said.

Meanwhile, a senior legal officer is to be appointed to the board and monthly governance reports are to be submitted to the minister.

The developments follow months of media revelations about alleged conflicts of interest in some board members’ decision-making.

The reports also included reports of chronic understaffing, frantic file searches with minimal evaluation by board members, and the lack of paper evidence to show how decisions are made or why the inspectors’ recommendations are rejected.

An Bord Pleanála has a massive impact on construction and development in Ireland, dealing with all appeals to local authority planning decisions and dealing directly with complex cases such as major infrastructure projects.

Until the beginning of this year, it was also allowed to make direct decisions about strategic residential developments.

“An Bord Pleanála is at the forefront of our planning system and plays a crucial role as the final arbiter of many planning applications,” said Mr. O’Brien.

“Against this background, I treat any allegation of improper actions or conduct by its members with the utmost seriousness.

“The public must have confidence in the impartiality and integrity of our planning system if it is to function effectively to enable sustainable development.”

https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/report-on-an-bord-pleanala-sent-to-gardai-and-dpp-to-consider-criminal-proceedings-41913906.html Report on An Bord Pleanála sent to Gardaí and DPP to consider criminal proceedings

Fry Electronics Team

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