The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage has referred a report on certain decisions made by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), an Garda Síochána (AGS) and the Standards in Public Office (SIPO).
In a statement, Darragh O’Brien said that he had taken the decision on the advice of the Attorney General.
He also announced a number of other measures aimed at upholding trust in the planning system, and helping it to deal with an increased workload.
The report entitled, Report Into the Management of Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Disclosures by the Deputy Chairperson of An Bord Pleanála in Relation to Certain Decisions of that Board and Related Matters, was completed by Remy Farrell SC.
Advice sought on publication
Last month, the deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála, Paul Hyde, resigned. He had earlier stood aside temporarily amid allegations of conflicts of interest.
The minister said that it was now a matter for the DPP whether a criminal prosecution should be undertaken arising from the findings of the report.
He has also sought the DPP’s views on the publication of the report, adding that he believed it was important that it be published as soon as possible, “given the vital public interest in this matter”.
Minister O’Brien is also awaiting a separate internal report from senior management within ABP.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) is to carry out an independent organisational review of ABP. This will involve independent planning experts from other jurisdictions and Conleth Bradley SC, according to the minister’s statement.
Among the review’s tasks will be to identify any changes in legislation that may be needed.
The minister also signalled that he would back a further increase in staffing levels at ABP “in tandem with the recommended organisational reforms set out by the OPR review”. He had already sanctioned an earlier increase of 24 staff, who are currently being recruited.
The minister also plans an overhaul of the appointments process at the board, underpinned by new legislation. As a result, the current process for nominations will cease.
Other measures proposed include the appointment of “a senior legal advisor” to the ABP board, and a requirement for monthly reports from the board to the minister on corporate governance.