An Bord Pleanála (ABP) deputy chairperson Paul Hyde granted planning permission to a property developer represented by his former board colleague.
ABP’s code of conduct prohibits board members from voting on appeals where their “involvement could give rise to an appearance of objective bias”.
When Hyde’s former colleague brought the appeal to ABP on behalf of his client, Hyde was the only board member who had served with him.
Two board members. One Fine Gael minister. One defunct organisation
In July 2020 E1-Sub Ltd submitted an appeal to ABP against Limerick City and County Council’s decision to refuse permission for 14 two-bedroom apartments in Croom, county Limerick.
Hyde’s former colleague Micheal Leahy represented E1-Sub in the appeal.
Leahy served on ABP’s board from 2012 to 2017, with Hyde joining him in 2014. Leahy is now chairperson of the far-right Irish Freedom Party.
Both Leahy and Hyde were nominated to the board by the Irish Rural Dwellers Association. The organisation didn’t legally exist at the time of either of their appointments, having been dissolved in 2012, as reported by The Ditch. The Irish Examiner has further reported that three former board members of the defunct organisation – Independent TD Marian Harkin, former TD Jerry Crowley and former senator Labhrás Ó Murchú – had no knowledge of the nomination process for Hyde.
Former Fine Gael minister Phil Hogan appointed both men to the board.
Clare man Leahy opened his planning consultancy, Leahy Planning Ltd, just ten months after his May 2017 departure from ABP. According to the firm’s website, “While working as a board member of An Bord Pleanála, Leahy secured a diploma in planning and environmental law in order to be better able to advise clients the complex legislative framework which surrounds the planning process in Ireland at present.”
When Leahy’s client E1-Sub had its appeal heard by ABP in November 2020, it was ultimately successful in having Limerick City and County Council’s earlier negative ruling overturned.
Despite the council’s view that E1-Sub’s “proposed development would endanger public safety by means of a traffic hazard”, Hyde signed a 13 November, 2020 board order granting permission for the three-block apartment scheme.
Fellow board members, who didn’t serve with Leahy, Michelle Fagan and Terry Prendergast also attended the meeting.
Leahy is a founding member of the Irish Freedom Party and replaced Dolores Cahill as its chairperson in March last year. He was the party’s candidate for county Clare in the 2020 general election but only secured one percent of first preference votes.
Paul Hyde declined to comment.