Former An Bord Pleanála Chairman Dave Walsh An Bord Pleanala/
dave walsh

An Bord Pleanála chair to retire early on family grounds following tumultuous period for board

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien will move to appoint a new chairperson.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 3rd 2022, 1:48 PM

THE CHAIRMAN OF An Bord Pleanála, Dave Walsh, has announced that he will be retiring early for “personal and family reasons”.

In a statement today, Walsh announced that he would be stepping down from the role, saying that he had informed Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien of his decision.

O’Brien confirmed the move and thanked Walsh for his service at the head of the planning body and within the civil service.

“Minister O’Brien will now move swiftly to initiate the process of appointing a new Chairperson and will also appoint a Deputy Chairperson as provided for under the Planning and Development Act, 2000,” a spokesperson for the Department of Housing said.

Walsh had been chair of An Bord Pleanála for the last four years.

It comes as controversy has erupted over allegations of conflict of interest elsewhere at An Bord Pleanála in recent months, which lead to the resignation of the board’s deputy chairperson, Paul Hyde, in early July.

Hyde has denied all allegations made against him.

A report on the alleged conflicts, carried out by senior counsel Remy Farrell of interest has since been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In his statement, Walsh said that it was a “privilege” to lead the planning body for the last four years.

“It has been a privilege to lead An Bord Pleanála over the last four years, and after 27 years of public service, I believe now is the right time for me to embark on the next chapter of my life and to focus on other priorities,” Walsh said.

While it is of course difficult to leave such an organisation, I am sure that the staff and Board will continue to strive for the highest public service standards that they have set for themselves and for the organisation and I am confident that the actions being taken by the Board, supported by the Department and the Office of the Planning Regulator, will help to quickly restore the Board’s reputation and underpin its central role in the planning process.

Walsh also thanked O’Brien and the Department of Housing for their “continued support”.

The Department of Housing has said that “critical reforms” of An Bord Pleanála are required to help “restore public confidence” and improve the systems and processes of the body.

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has also called for urgent reform of An Bord Pleanála, with their latest report issuing 11 recommendations to help restore public confidence.

These proposals include a new Governance, Ethics and Compliance Unit within An Bord Pleanála to help manage potential conflicts of interest in planning decisions.

Political reaction

Following the retirement of Walsh, there has been reaction from opposition TDs with Sinn Féin’s Housing Spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin saying that there is now an opportunity for O’Brien to “wipe the slate clean at ABP”.

“For months, An Bord Pleanála has been in crisis. It has been clear for some time that the problems extended well beyond the behaviour of individual ABP members,” Ó Broin said.

Ó Broin called for O’Brien to work with the Opposition for a cross party consensus for reform of An Bord Pleanála.

“This is the only way to bring an end to the crisis that has gripped ABP and infected the planning system for months and in turn the only way to ensure public confidence in this important body is fully restored.”

Housing Spokesperson for the Social Democrats, Cian O’Callaghan called for the internal report on issues within An Bord Pleanála to be published.

“This report should be published and An Bord Pleanála needs to respond to and answer all of the allegations that are in the public domain,” O’Callaghan said.

“The Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien T.D. can’t continue to sit back and not take action. He must insist that all allegations in the public domain are dealt with quickly. There must be full transparency and accountability to restore public confidence in the planning system.”