AppellantÂ’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby mulp » Fri Jun 16, 2006 12:54 pm

Looking for advice if anyone has been in this situation. [Or discussion of issues raised]
My client has received the PA’s notification to grant permission.
This is now being appealed by the next-door neighbour via a prominent planning consultant. The consultant is also / has been an inspector for An Bord Pleanala on a case-by-case basis.

The substance of the appeal document is astonishing, as it relates to a fairly modest domestic extension. It contains large sections which don’t relate to proper planning & development considerations, and information which is intentionally included to confuse and obscure the actual nature of the proposal. (I say intentionally, as the planner's qualifications and employment history tell me that this is a carefully calculated tactic).

My clients are extremely concerned that their application will not receive the full and impartial consideration that it should, given the consultant's employment by the Bord and the fact that a colleague of the consultant will now determine it (make the recommendation for the bord).
The consultant has sought to accentuate the case with reference to previous An Bord Pleanala decisions. On checking, the cases are ones which the consultant has been directly involved (as an inspector).
It is also worrying that an inspector, who must display strict impartiality in one role can switch to submitting such intentionally disingenuous vitriol in their ‘private’ role.

Any comments or thoughts on implications here would be most welcome.
An Bord Pleanala have told our client that the consultant is perfectly entitled to operate in both roles. Maybe so, but this is a very small and intimate sphere we are operating within, and the situation gives our client no reassurance whatsoever.
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby PVC King » Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:10 pm

I think it would be beneficial if you could clarify if the inspector is a current member of An Bord or if their tenure has finished.
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby mulp » Fri Jun 16, 2006 3:34 pm

I am waiting for that to be confirmed & it will be interesting to know. However, the concerns are still very much there even if the tenure has finished.
The inspector is of course not a 'member' of the board. It would seem that inspectors are retained on a panel and assigned appeals on a case-by-case basis.
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby PVC King » Fri Jun 16, 2006 3:43 pm

If the planning consultant on this file has deviated from genuine planning concerns like you say it should be fairly easy to have the appeal dismissed as being either frivolous or vexatious.

I would also be concerned in this case as you are obviously facing a formidable opponent who knows both sides of the fence so to speak. But given that this individual is a third party contractor and has no say on the actual determination of this matter and can only submit an opinion on other matters I would look to your own case and not worry about anything else.

What this situation really does highlight is how in the midst of the greatest construction boom this country has ever seen that has lasted for 12 years that the government will not fund An Bord Pleanala to take on sufficient staff to undertake all work in house.

I doubt that this or any individual could influence an bord on the basis of having done work for them they are not like that in my experience.
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby mulp » Fri Jun 16, 2006 4:11 pm

I have no doubt that we will be able to submit an fitting response. The consultant's submission has provided much of the ammunition.
It is interesting that articulate, concise submissions that stick to relevant planning matters are infinitely more effective than ones that stray off course and include subjective rants and fabrications.

The content of the consultant's submission concerns me. Someone who is charged with the responsibility of dealing with planning appeals should be capable of reading architectural drawings and should know what is a relevant planning matter and what is not.
It is possibly more the perception of a flawed system that causes real apprehension for applicants. The board (or the legislation) should seek to remove even the slightest whiff of a potential conflict of interest.

I fully agree on the funding issue. And what about some building control inspectors too?

[Confirmed by An Bord Pleanala that the consultant is still used as an Inspector]
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby goosewing grey » Fri Jun 16, 2006 6:33 pm

i was involved with a large controversial project a couple of years back which was appealed by a full-time inspector (who did not even live in the same county as the development) on conservation grounds

the developers solicitor wrote to ABP outlining the situation and the potential conflict of interest. the appeal was withdrawn

perhaps you could ask ABP for a copy of the code of conduct for inspectors - im not sure if its different for contract staff
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby publicrealm » Fri Jun 16, 2006 8:27 pm

goosewing grey wrote:i was involved with a large controversial project a couple of years back which was appealed by a full-time inspector (who did not even live in the same county as the development) on conservation grounds

the developers solicitor wrote to ABP outlining the situation and the potential conflict of interest. the appeal was withdrawn

perhaps you could ask ABP for a copy of the code of conduct for inspectors - im not sure if its different for contract staff



I hope it wasn't the Trim Castle business?

Quite a number of planning consultants do occasional work for the Board.

  • The Board is impartial and, in my view, will not be influenced by the name at the bottom of the report]If the report is as disingenuous and poorly argued as you say then that makes your job much easier, and also reduces the potential impact of your opponents report. Win Win in my view :)
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby Oswald » Sat Jun 17, 2006 7:06 pm

It is a good thing that Inspectors also have experience of submitting planning applications or appeals. I agree with "publicrealm" that if there is any bias it should be obvious form the Inspector's Report. However I am concerned about a loophole in the Board's Code of Conduct. In the case of former Board members and Inspectors it only requires that he/she "should not accept employment connected with, act as a consultant or otherwise advise in relation to any CASE which was with the Board during his/her period of employment". The Board interprets "case" as a unique appeal file. This allows the former Member or Inspector to act as consultant with regard to a later applciation on the same site.
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby mulp » Thu Jun 29, 2006 4:21 pm

An Bord Pleanala 2004 Report:
Public Confidence: "The Board’s three core [B]principles of independence, impartiality and openness[/B] are embedded in our Mission Statement and objectives and underpinned by legislation. We are always mindful that public confidence depends on the integrity and quality of our decision-making and the professionalism with which we carry out our functions. There is a statutory code of conduct for all Board members, staff and consultants which places stringent obligations on members and employees of the Board to declare interests and conduct themselves generally in a way that reinforces public confidence".

An Bord Pleanala Code of Conduct:
"Section 150 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 (Appendix 1) requires that the Board adopt a code of conduct for members and employees. It is the intention that members and employees should adhere not just to the letter of the Code but also to the spirit of the Code in a manner that maintains the highest level of public confidence and trust in the Board and its operations"

The planning consultant involved here has been employed as a "Part Time Consultant" and is currently employed on a Fee-per-case basis by the Bord.
There is no section of the code of conduct that prohibits inspectors operating as private consultants who can lodge third party appeals to the Bord.
However, when an inspector undertakes this type of private work and is prepared to submit an appeal, which is heavily disingenuous, and intentionally misleading, for a fee, does this not directly contravene the code of conduct quoted above.
I accept that the case inspector & Bord members will determine the case in an impartial manner.
The issue here is that an employee of the Bord, while acting in a private capacity, has seriously eroded my client's perception of, and confidence in the "independence, impartiality and openness" of the planning appeals process which is stated to be so important.
Is this acceptable?
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby ctesiphon » Thu Jun 29, 2006 4:30 pm

publicrealm wrote:I hope it wasn't the Trim Castle business?

Can't think what else it could have been- hardly a common set of circumstances. A pretty shameful business all told.
As an aside- wasn't the Europa Nostra body reviewing its funding for Trim Castle on the basis if this development? Never heard the results of that one.
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby publicrealm » Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:48 pm

ctesiphon wrote:Can't think what else it could have been- hardly a common set of circumstances. A pretty shameful business all told.
As an aside- wasn't the Europa Nostra body reviewing its funding for Trim Castle on the basis if this development? Never heard the results of that one.



I'm not sure - I think that by the time they realised that the gombeens had moved in the money was already committed.

Interesting account of the whole sorry affair in the report of the Centre for Public Inquiry - can be downloaded from http://www.publicinquiry.ie/pdf/FIOSRU_270905.pdf

Of course that outfit, along with Duchas, has since been 'eliminated' and An Taisce is being starved to death.

It's not really a conspiracy - they aren't capable of sustaining a thought for long enough to qualify as a conspiracy - more like inbred contempt for anything that existed before they emerged from the slime (circa 1970).
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Re: Appellant’s Agent also An Bord Pleanala Inspector

Postby ctesiphon » Wed Jul 05, 2006 12:12 pm

Thanks for the link, publicrealm.

I've always found it odd how doing a good/necessary job seems to be the shortest route to dissolution. You could probably add An Foras Forbartha to that list too.
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