Correspondence sought by Fianna Fáil through Freedom of Information requests has revealed that there are still significant delays in filling vacant posts in An Bord Pleanala. It has emerged that the State agency has been without a Legal Advisor since 2011.

The party’s Housing Spokesperson, Darragh O’Brien commented, “An Bord Pleanala’s existing Workforce Plan 2017-2018 is due to come to an end this month but there are still clear gaps in the recruitment of a legal advisor and a number of other posts. The Bord first sought a legal advisor as far back as 2011 but despite this the vacancy has only just very recently been advertised.

“It is troubling that there are such delays in filling these essential roles. Legal appeals taken against the decisions reached by An Bord Pleanala such as the Apple Data Centre in Athenry have caused real damage, particularly to local economies nationwide.

“In addition, this vacancy will have risked the development of badly needed housing projects and therefore potentially worsening the housing crisis. I’ve previously raised this matter but the mounting delays are becoming more and more apparent.

“An Bord Pleanala now process appeals in relation to the Vacant Site Levy, strategic housing applications as well as the growing workload of planning appeals and CPOs. Without the ability to access legal advice, the Bord is weakened and at a time when the workload is increasing.

“It’s up to Minister Murphy to ensure that the Bord is fully equipped to carry out its central role in the country’s planning system. In our view, the Minister needs to move to expand the number of members and reduce the quorum for decisions on smaller developments in order to expedite decision making.

“Ultimately, leaving important roles vacant for years on end won’t aid the Bord in fulfilling its role in addressing the crisis in housing,” Deputy O’Brien concluded.