Former deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála to face criminal prosecution
Caroline O’Doherty – 10th October 2022
The former deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála is to face criminal prosecution, the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided.
The move comes two months after a report into actions by Paul Hyde during his time on the board of the planning authority was referred to the DPP by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.
Mr Hyde, who resigned his position last July, has always denied any wrongdoing.
Mr O’Brien appointed barrister Remy Farrell to carry out an investigation last April following allegations of undeclared conflicts of interest in planning decisions Mr Hyde made.
A spokesperson for Mr O’Brien said: “The Minister is aware that proceedings have been instituted against Mr Hyde.
“The DPP has requested that the report by Mr Remy Farrell SC not be published or otherwise released until such a time as the proceedings have been concluded.”
It is understood that Mr Hyde has not yet been formally summonsed to appear in court but that arrangements are being made to serve him with the documents.
He has been under scrutiny since last April after reports in the online news outlet, The Ditch, detailing allegations that he made decisions in planning cases involving people, places or projects with which he had connections that he failed to disclose.
Further allegations have been made about other board members since and the procedures governing decision-making by the board have come under sustained criticism.
The spotlight has also fallen on the level of resources and expertise available to the authority which has been handling a growing number of planning cases of increasing complexity and which must soon take on massive projects such as MetroLink, Dart-plus and multiple off-shore wind farms.
Mr O’Brien has initiated a series of reforms that will enlarge the board, change how members are appointed and how decisions are reached and recorded, increase the level of legal advice and oversight that is available during decision-making and boost resources generally.
The Office of the Planning Regulator, which carried out a separate review, issued preliminary reform recommendations last week but is continuing its work.
Under the legislation establishing An Bord Pleanála, failure to correctly comply with conflict of interest declaration procedures is a criminal offence that carries a potential prison sentence of up to six months.
The Minister also forwarded Mr Farrell’s report to the Standards in Public Office Commission which is considering the findings.