THE TOP job in Irish planning – the chair of An Bord Pleanála – has been offered to Dr Mary Kelly, who has been director-general of the Environmental Protection Agency since 2002, The Irish Times has learned.
Attempts to contact Dr Kelly yesterday about her imminent appointment by the Government were unsuccessful.
She was recommended by a statutory interview board chaired by President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns. It included the chairman of An Taisce, Charles Stanley-Smith, and the president of the Construction Industry Federation, Matt Gallagher.
Other members of the interview board, as specified by the 1983 Planning Act to ensure an “arm’s length” process, are the chairman of the General Council of County Councils, the president of Ictu and the chief engineering adviser of the Department of the Environment.
Dr Kelly, who holds a PhD in chemistry, has no formal qualifications in planning, architecture or urban design, unlike other applicants such as Michael Wall, who served on the board for nine years, and Karl Kent, its new deputy chairman and former senior planning inspector.
It is understood that Dr Kelly had another six months to run of a two-year extension of her initial seven-year term as director-general of the EPA. She received a salary of €215,043 in 2009, the last year for which figures are publicly available, but may have taken a pay cut since.
The remuneration of the chairman of An Bord Pleanála is linked to that of a High Court judge. However, outgoing chairman John O’Connor – who is due to leave his post today – took a 10 per cent pay cut in 2008, which had the effect of reducing his salary to €206,616.
The intake of planning appeals has almost halved over the past two years, to about 2,900.