Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, has just announced an organisational review of An Bord Pleanála (the Board) to ensure that it is appropriately positioned to meet future challenges.
The Board is an independent body, established initially under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1976, which is responsible for the determination of planning appeals and certain other matters under planning legislation.
Since its establishment, the Board has become an integral part of the Irish planning system, providing an independent, impartial and objective appeals process, while more recently also becoming responsible for the assessment and determination of applications for strategic infrastructure development such as major roads and railways. In addition, the Board is responsible for dealing with proposals for the compulsory acquisition of land by local authorities under various enactments. Since it commenced operations, it has also developed a high level of public and institutional confidence.
“The Board is a vital part of the planning architecture in Ireland and in the context of the recovering national economy, the further potential expansion of the Board’s remit and the increasingly challenging national and EU legislative and regulatory context in which it operates, I consider that now is an opportune time to undertake an organisational review to ensure that it is appropriately positioned for the future”, stated the Minister.
It is proposed that the timeframe for the review will be approximately six months, with a view to a report and recommendations being submitted to the Minister by year-end.
Discussing the review the Irish Planning Institute’s vice-president Brendan Allen said “We welcome the proposed review of An Bord Pleanála. It conducts a number of important roles in an increasingly complex area and will play a key role in our future environmental and economic development, especially given the required investment in infrastructure and housing in the coming years. It is important that the Board remains independent and that the integrity of the Board and its professional planning staff – for which it is highly regarded – is not compromised.”
Allen concluded “We have some concerns that the proposed six month timeline is very tight given the breadth of An Bord Pleanála’s work and its future roles which also mean the Board must be properly resourced. It is part of wider changes in planning and its interaction with the proposed Office of Planning Regulation must be considered. The Board should not become a body setting planning policy. Instead its decisions should be framed in the context of explicit, clearly articulated plan led policies.”
An expert and experienced external Review Group will be appointed to undertake this independent review of the Board and will comprise of:
Mr Gregory Jones, Queen’s Counsel, London (Chair)
Dr Áine Ryall, The School of Law, University College Cork (Vice-Chair)
Mr Michael Malone, former County Manager, Kildare County Council
Ms Mary Hughes, current President of the Irish Planning Institute
Short biographies are below.
Terms of Reference
The review group shall have regard to the following in compiling its report and in making recommendations to the Minister to support the Board in its operations, with a view to ensuring that it is appropriately positioned and fit for purpose from an organisational perspective to achieve its legislative mandate:
- The anticipated increase in construction activity, including on strategic infrastructure projects and Strategic Development Zones (SDZs), and the related volume of planning applications and appeals as the economy recovers, including measures to ensure that appeal and non-appeal cases are discharged in an efficient and timely manner.
- The increasingly complex and changing national and EU legislative and policy context within which the Board operates.
- The need for more effective co-ordination of the planning permission process with other development consent and licencing systems to, inter alia, facilitate compliance with relevant EU Directive requirements.
- The increase in litigation in the area of the Board’s work and measures required to address same.
- The appropriateness of the current legislation governing the functions of the Board, its corporate governance structures and the Board appointment process.
- The increase in functions being assigned to the Board, including foreshore licensing under the proposed Maritime Area and Foreshore Bill, co-ordination of “projects of common interest” (cross-border energy infrastructure projects) etc.
- The systems, procedures and administrative practices employed in the Board, including decision making processes in determining planning appeals and determinations.
- The optimal organisational structure, including required skillsets, ICT requirements, human resource development and capacity requirements, as well as financial resources, to enable it to effectively carry out its functions and meet its statutory remit drawing, as appropriate, on the current internal business process review as part of the ongoing implementation of the ABP ICT strategy.
- The implications of proposed changes to the planning system, both legislative and structural, including the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator.
Gregory Jones QC (Chair) is in independent practice at the bar of England & Wales at Francis Taylor Building, Temple, London specialising in town & country planning, environmental, European and compulsory purchase law. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Gregory is also called to bars of Northern Ireland and King’s Inns. Educated at New College, Oxford University and University College, London, Gregory was a stagiaire at the European Commission and Jean Pierre Warner Scholar at the European Court of Justice. Elected in 2013 as an independent Common Councilman of the City of London, he is a member of its planning and transportation committee. Gregory is the Deputy Chancellor of the Dioceses of both Exeter and Truro.
Dr Áine Ryall (Vice Chair) teaches and researches environmental law and European Union law at the School of Law, University College Cork. A qualified barrister, she is a member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Advisory Committee, the Royal Irish Academy’s Climate Change and Environmental Sciences Committee and the European Commission Expert Group of Academics on Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. She served as a member of the Environmental Protection Agency Review Group which reported in May 2011. Her research focuses in particular on environmental assessment, access to justice, environmental law enforcement and implementation of the Aarhus Convention.
Mr Michael Malone MBA is the former County Manager, Kildare County Council. Michael retired from Kildare CC in June 2014 following a 42-year career in local government. Starting off at North Tipperary County Council he worked in Galway City, South Tipperary, North Tipperary (as County Secretary), Kerry (Assistant Manager) and in Laois, Kilkenny and Kildare as County Manager.
Mary Hughes BA MSc Town Planning Dip. EIA/SEA is the current President of the Irish Planning Institute (2014/2015). With in excess of 17 years’ experience in planning, Mary spent her first years working for different planning authorities throughout Ireland. In 2002 she left the public sector and became Associate Director of an international transport and planning consultancy, before establishing HRA Planning in 2005. Mary provides planning services to both public and private sector clients throughout Ireland. Mary also sat on the steering group which coordinated the preparation of the Local Authority Renewable Energy Guidelines prepared by SEAI.