File photo. Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Sinn Féin's Ó Broin calls for urgent reform of An Bord Pleanála amid ‘deep, deep crisis’

The housing minister outlined steps being taken to address issues at the planning body in the Dáil today.

SINN FÉIN’S HOUSING spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has called for urgent reform of An Bord Pleanála, saying the planning authority is in “deep, deep crisis” due to revelations about alleged conflicts of interest and government policy failures.

Speaking in a Dáil debate today, the Dublin Mid West TD called on the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to act with “absolute urgency” to restore public confidence in the planning body.

The planning authority has been at the centre of controversy for several months with deputy chair of the board, Paul Hyde, resigning in July following revelations about alleged conflicts of interest.

A report into the alleged conflicts of interest was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions by minister O’Brien last month, following advice from the Attorney General.

Speaking in the Dáil, housing minister Darragh O’Brien outlined a series of actions the government has taken to respond to the immediate problems and address the underlying issues, while maintaining a functioning planning system.

“The actions fall broadly into three categories. Firstly, dealing with specific allegations of wrongdoing. Secondly, implementing the internal reform of process procedures and the workforce plans of An Bord Pleanála. And thirdly, a fundamental overhaul of An Bord Pleanála’s nomination process and its broader legislative framework,” O’Brien said.

“The planning system must be made fit for purpose while still moving forward. The series of reforms arising from this controversy will be rolled out without delaying critical housing and infrastructure developments,” he added.

The minister said he has asked all opposition housing spokespeople for their input into the process and said he will engage with their proposals.

Ó Broin said there appears to be “a pattern” in the planning body of individuals not declaring “very, very significant conflicts of interest when taking decisions on both small and large planning applications and appeals.”

Screenshot 2022-09-15 at 14.22.56 Eoin Ó Broin addressing today's debate in the Dáil.

“This avalanche of revelations had led to three separate inquiries, one resignation, possible criminal charges, and to the board’s reputation being in tatters,” he added.

The Sinn Féin politician said the crisis in An Bord Pleanála goes deeper than the actions of individual board members and the failure of corporate governance.

He argued that legislation introduced under the previous Fine Gael led government created a conflict between government policy and city and county development plans across a range of local authorities.

“When you get that kind of conflict between two sets of planning lawmakers things end up going to the courts and, in fact, as a direct result of that conflict, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of judicial reviews being taken against strategic housing developments,” Ó Broin said.

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