Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

An Bord Pleanála: Discussion

9:30 am

Mr. David Walsh:

I thank the Senator very much. I appreciate his comments and support. I will try to deal with most of the issues, and Ms Lambkin and Ms Kenny might step in on elements of them.

I am very impressed with the calibre of people both on the board and throughout the organisation. When one comes in with a fresh perspective, it is always good to test and review what is there and to see how, as Chairman, one can add value and further improve. Communication is hugely important, both internally within the organisation and within the system from local to national Government, but also in respect of stakeholders and members of the public. The system we operate at the moment in terms of how we make information available and how we justify and explain the rationale for our decisions is constantly evolving and improving. We can always make things clear by the use of plainer English but we work in a complex legislative and legal context so there is some legalese that we must reflect in our decisions but, equally, we are working through making that information available and accessible on an improved website.

The Senator raised the issue of the strategic objective period of 18 weeks. We have made progress on that in recent months and will make more progress over the next six months. The reason we are still in the low 40s is that we have taken a conscious decision to deal with the oldest cases first and to make sure that people are not waiting any longer, whether it is for large scale applications, an extension to a house or whatever it might be. The efforts of the board and the entire organisation have been focused on prioritising those applications. We are working through them and many of the older cases have now been dealt with and addressed. Over the course of the next three to six months, we will see the percentage going back to where it needs to be. There will always be cases that require further information or even an oral hearing. It is a challenge to say that every single case will be addressed within 18 weeks but certainly we would expect to be back to where we were in the last three or four years, where we were hitting 80% to 85%. That is the target we are setting ourselves for the end of 2019. I recognise that people also need to understand this and have those dates communicated to them. They need transparency in terms of when to expect a decision if we are not meeting the 18 week target.

We do not have Exchequer income in our budgets for 2019 just yet but I am happy to communicate that when we get it. We have communicated to the Department what we feel is required in terms of our capital and current spending. We continue to engage and communicate with the Department and I would-----