Planning ‘conflict of interest’ alleged

Calls have been made by for the launch of an independent inquiry into an alleged “conflict of interest” involving a member of An Bord Pleanála in an ongoing row over a water treatment plant in North Donegal.

Calls have been made by for the launch of an independent inquiry into an alleged “conflict of interest” involving a member of An Bord Pleanála in an ongoing row over a water treatment plant in North Donegal.

Sinn Fein TD for Donegal North East, Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn says an independent review should take place regarding the role of An Bord Pleanála director, Conall Boland, in granting permission for sewerage treatment works on the edge of Lough Foyle in Inishowen, as he was a former director of a firm involved in the project.

Mr. Boland was one of five signatories granting planning permission for the controversial treatment plant between Moville and Greencastle.

The boards decision went against inspector Danny O’Connor’s findings following an oral hearing in 2009 in Redcastle, advising planning should be refused.

The Sinn Féin Deputy says Mr. Boland has previously been employed at a “senior level” by engineering firm, RPS Consultants, who carried out tide modelling on the project commissioned by Donegal County Council and this should be investigated.

He added: “RPS, Conall Bolands former company, were consultants to the Council. My issue is that I think this is a clear conflict of interest. If you look at the qualifications of the board members of An Bord Pleanala, it is clear Conall Boland is the lead engineer, the person with the engineering skills and is a very influential and decisive person on the board that makes decisions based on engineering adjudication and he’s a former employee and former technical director, a senior staff member, of RPS and he has now been involved in two very controversial decisions that over ruled inspectors reports and granted permission to beneficiaries who were clients of RPS. To me that is a conflict of interest.”

Deputy MacLochlainn says he is not accusing Mr. Boland of corruption or questioning his “professional capacity” but he has written to the Environment Minsiter over his concerns.

A spokesperson for An Bord Pleanála stated that members are governed by legislation and corporate controls including the Ethics Act, sections of the Planning and Development Act and a Code of conduct, which have not been breached.

They said they have always acknowledged Mr Boland was a former employee of RPS, one of the largest engineering firms in the country, and after leaving to join An Bord Pleanála, he entered a 12 month period of “quarantine” disallowing any involvement with decisions where his former employers were involved.

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