Around 50 posts unfilled amid major overhaul of An Bord Pleanala

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien speaking at a press conference at Government Buildings (PA)
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien speaking at a press conference at Government Buildings (PA)

Around 50 roles within An Bord Pleanala have yet to be filled as the Cabinet signed off on a bill which would radically reform the organisation.

Minister Darragh O’Brien has said 117 new staffing posts within An Bord Pleanala have been agreed since October 2021, but later admitted around 40% of those jobs have yet to be filled.

The jobs come as part of the Government’s ambition to have more than 300 people employed within the body, which is to be renamed An Coimisiun Pleanala under a major overhaul to the planning system.

Mr O’Brien told a press conference at Government Buildings that he wants to increase the number of people working within the planning body by 50% compared to 2021 levels.

However, at the same conference, Green Party leader and Minister for Environment revealed to reporters that around 50 of the roles remain unfilled.

Mr Ryan, who has set an expansion of the public service as one of his Budget objectives, said there were about 50 spaces “still outstanding”.

Mr O’Brien responded: “I mean, they’re advertised.”

Mr Ryan added: “That’s the area (planning) we need people more than anywhere else.”

He said it was “really hard” but possible to fill roles within the civil service during a time of near-full employment.

Cabinet meeting
Housing minister Darragh O’Brien (Brian Lawless/PA)

Asked if Government’s ambition for the overhaul of the planning system could proceed with filling the roles, Mr O’Brien said: “To be fair, we’re seeing an increase in people applying for jobs in our local authorities, we have more people working in our local authorities than ever before.

“Working in the public sector is a very attractive proposition for a lot of people but its a competitive jobs market out there and, particularly on the planning side, you need people who are appropriately qualified.”

Mr O’Brien said specialist roles “take longer to fill”.

“We are determined to ensure the roles that are approved are filled.”

He said 100 additional planning staff had been approved in local authorities also.

The minister said Government had to look at encouraging more people to study planning and architecture as well as expanding apprenticeship schemes.

As part of a planning bill which was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday, An Coimisun Pleanala will have significantly revised corporate structure with a separation of corporate, decision making and governance functions.

The Bill will clearly outline the roles of planning commissioners who will be responsible for all decision making regarding appeals and applications made.

They will be overseen by a newly created position of chief planning commissioner.

It will also outline the roles of the governing board which will be responsible for the governance and organisation of the body, and the corporate spine which will provide support to all of the organisations and functions will be overseen by a chief executive officer.