When considering controversial strategic housing developments (SHD), Bord Pleanalála (ABP) board members only disagreed with each other twice out of almost 400 applications.
The board approved 78 percent of these proposed developments with deputy chairperson Paul Hyde – chairperson of ABP’s SHD division and currently subject of four investigations into his alleged misconduct – presiding over 351 of the cases. Hyde’s fellow board member Michelle Fagan, who is also facing conflict-of-interest allegations, voted in 287.
Set to be phased out, strategic housing development legislation was introduced by former Fine Gael housing minister Simon Coveney. Criticised as being too developer friendly, the legislation allows large developers to bypass local councils and submit applications for housing developments of 100-plus units directly to ABP, which once decided can’t be appealed.
Records released to The Ditch show that when considering SHD applications, ABP board members almost always agree with each other.
With SHDs, unanimity is the rule rather than exception with ABP
When Paul Hyde was forced to explain his decision to vote against a proposed SHD that bordered land owned by his company, in a letter to housing minister Darragh O’Brien, he referenced the board’s unanimous decision in that case.
“The decision among all other board members at the meeting was unanimous," wrote Hyde in a 15 April, 2022 letter to O’Brien.
Unanimity on SHDs is however to be expected with ABP.
There were only two cases of dissent among board members in 378 SHD applications from 2018 to April this year.
In other words board members agreed with each other 99.5 percent of the time. Hyde voted in 93 percent of these decisions, while Michelle Fagan voted in 76 percent. .
The first case where the board disagreed concerned an April 2019 decision to grant permission to Cinamol Ltd for the construction of 112 build-to-rent units in Santry, north Dublin. The board also failed to reach a unanimous decision in April 2021 when it refused Western Way Developments Ltd permission for a 280-unit, build-to-rent complex in Broadstone, Dublin 7. Both applications were determined by a two-to-one majority.
With SHD legislation forbidding appeals once proposed developments are decided on, objectors have been forced to initiate court proceedings against ABP in certain cases. The Irish Examiner has reported that ABP has spent €8.2 million defending these challenges
ABP said it “has no comment” to make on the matter.