*An Bord Pleanála have come under the spotlight in recent months. 

CONFIDENCE HAS BEEN lost in An Bord Pleanála, Clare councillors have stated while calling for it to be replaced by “a competent authority”.

In recent weeks, the planning board after over twelve months of a delay announced the approval of the Ennistymon Inner Relief Road and a rejection of Aldi’s plans for a second Shannon store. However, several developments in the county still await an outcome.

This prompted Cllr Pat Daly (FF), Cllr John Crowe (FG) and Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) to request the Minister for Local Government, Darragh O’Brien TD (FF) to dismantle An Bord Pleanála and replace it “with a competent authority”.

Minister O’Brien has told the Dáil that the public must have trust in the impartiality and integrity of the planning system if it is to function effectively in facilitating sustainable development. He said he would shortly bring proposals to cabinet to overhaul the appointments process to the board, this will be underpinned by legislation.

An Bord Pleanála was plunged into controversy following allegations of wrongdoing against former deputy chairperson, Paul Hyde who resigned from the position in July, he has denied any wrongdoing.

Speaking in the Council Chamber, Cllr Daly stated, “There is and has been serious problems at An Bord Pleanála for some time”. He outlined how appeals were lodged on a daily basis with decisions due “way over time”. Among the developments referenced by the Ennis representative were the proposed Supermacs plaza on the outskirts of the county town, “hundreds of jobs are at stake”. He hoped the proposal could serve as “a wake-up call”.

Newmarket-on-Fergus based, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) commented, “people have lost confidence in An Bord Pleanála”. He added, “people at large have a feeling they rubber stamp what local authorities do at times”. McMahon believed the confidence wasn’t aided by the current “debacle” surrounding Mr Hyde.

Absence of a statutory timeline needed to be reviewed, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) said. “Confidence needs to be restored,” she affirmed while pointing out other Councils were tabling similar motions.

According to Cllr Shane Talty (FF), Minister O’Brien “needs to outline some sort of a roadmap for a future body and organisation”. He flagged how the cost of various projects “have ballooned” since they were first brought to the planning board.

In the eyes of Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) “An Bord Pleanála are a discredited organisation at the minute. I really think it gives a very bad impression, it reflects on all planning authorities throughout the country”.

Tabling the motion was “long overdue,” maintained Cllr PJ Kelly (FF). He explained, “prior to the setting up of An Bord Pleanála, the right of appeal was to the Minister, it was then deemed to be political and this organisation replaced it, it was a structure put together in a hurry without proper controls. To me it’s a prearranged organisation”. The Lissycasey representative admitted his “shock” that the inspector’s report is examined by the Chair and one other board member, “in other words two members act in the name of the board, that to me is not very democratic. This is also used and abused by vexatious appeals, they should be determined in thirty days”.

There was no doubt for Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) that the “credibility and governance structure” of the planning board was “exposed”. She felt the absence of statutory timelines for decisions was “extraordinary”.

Questions needed to be raised over the “different and strange decisions” taken by An Bord Pleanála over the years, remarked Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) who said the authority was “not up to the task”. He added, “the people need to have confidence in An Bord Pleanála and they don’t at this juncture”.

Applications are taking over a year for a decision to be made, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) observed. “The difficulty is that the applicants could have a condition in their planning, they can’t apply for another or move forward because they’re left in no man’s land. We cannot leave individuals waiting over a year for a decision”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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