The Office of the Planning Regulator has sent a draft report on An Bord Pleana (ABP) to the Planning Appeals Authority and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, in a move that comes two months after the resignation of the board’s deputy chairman.
The report follows a statutory review of ABP procedures by two Scottish officials engaged by the regulator, Niall Cusson, as part of an effort to restore confidence in ABP after a long dispute. One of the subjects under examination is the distribution of planning files to board members of planning bodies.
Former deputy chairman Paul Hyde left ABP in July amid inquiries into alleged conflicts of interest in his work. He always denied any wrongdoing. A Garda investigation is ongoing and the Director of Public Prosecutions is examining a senior barrister’s report for Mr O’Brien on the matter.
Asked about the garda investigation, ABP said its board “provided certain relevant records upon request” from the gardaí investigation. “No officers have been interviewed by An Garda Síochána in the context of its investigation.”
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) said Mr Cusson expected to publish his final report on the first part of the two-stage review on Monday week, October 3.
“A draft report regarding the first phase of the review was submitted to the Minister. . . and a Bord Pleinala on September 19,” a spokesperson said.
Without commenting on the draft findings, a spokesman for Mr O’Brien said the Department of Housing would “provide observations” to the regulator before a final report is issued.
ABP declined to comment on the draft, saying the report and “any observations” were still under consideration. “As part of the information gathering exercise, the board has provided a number of documents to the review team,” the planning body said.
Although the regulator’s team has been given broad powers to speak directly to any ABP employee or board member or “any other person”, ABP said the reviewers have not met any board members or members of its executive team.
“It is the Board’s understanding that time constraints have not allowed for OPR consultation with staff in En Bord Pleana to provide its first report. It is the Board’s understanding that the second phase of the OPR review may involve engagement with ABP Board members and staff, among others.”
A separate internal review within ABP has been underway for months.
Asked if any draft findings from that process had been sent to anyone inside or outside the organization, ABP said “no” and said the review process “has not yet been finalised”.
The report will be “presented for the first time” to the ABP chairman for consideration.