Monday 29 August 2011

Alleged conflict over planning raised

A NORTH Donegal community group has called on Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to review an alleged conflict of interest involving a member of An Bord Pleanála.

Sinn Féin Donegal North East TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on Mr Hogan to initiate an “independent examination” of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve a wastewater treatment plant proposed by Donegal County Council on Lough Foyle’s shores.

The Campaign for a Clean Estuary, which opposes the plant’s siting, says it believed there was a “conflict of interest” in the decision, which overruled an inspector’s recommended refusal of permission for the scheme. It noted An Bord Pleanála member Conall Boland, formerly technical director of RPS Consultants, was a signatory to the approval.

The campaign said in a statement Mr Boland should have “excused himself” when the board decision was being taken, as his former employer, RPS, undertook a hydrodynamic and water quality modelling study for principal consultants as part of the scheme.

Mr Mac Lochlainn, who has written to Mr Hogan to call for an independent review, says RPS had undertaken a number of projects for the council, including designing Mulroy bridge and Killybegs harbour development.

The board has confirmed Mr Boland was one of five signatories to the Greencastle/Moville sewerage scheme decision.

The other four were deputy chairman Karl Kent and Brian Swift, Mary McMahon and Jane Doyle.

It said Mr Boland was appointed to the board in 2006, and every member was subject to codes to avoid conflict of interest, including its code of conduct, the declaration provisions in planning legislation and Department of Finance corporate guidelines.

Under section 14.3 of An Bord Pleanála’s code of conduct, “a member or other person referred to at 14.1 shall not knowingly deal with a file relating to a planning authority or a private practice where he/she was previously employed during the previous 12 months or any voluntary or professional organisation of which the person is or was a member during the previous 12 months”.

In his letter to Mr Hogan, Mr Mac Lochlainn referred to Mr Boland’s role as a board member in overturning the recommendation of An Bord Pleanála’s inspector to deny permission for a 600-unit apartment complex on a golf course in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, in August 2010.

He said Mr Boland’s former employer, RPS, worked for the developers on the site.

Efforts by The Irish Times to contact Mr Boland proved unsuccessful this week.

Mr Boland, a civil engineer with a qualification in spatial planning, was appointed to the board by former Fianna Fáil minister for the environment Dick Roche in late 2006 for the period January 1st, 2007, to December 31st, 2011.

Former Green Party chairman John Gormley described it at the time as a “serious conflict of interest”, as he had advised Dublin City Council on its plans for the incinerator at Poolbeg.

Mr Gormley said he did not question Mr Boland’s competence, but said Mr Roche had put Mr Boland in a “very uncomfortable position”.

A Department of Environment spokesman said the Minister was precluded by legislation from interfering in any board decisions.

Irish Times

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