The Planning and Development and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill 2022, which the Government is currently rushing through the Oireachtas without proper scrutiny, will entirely change the appointments process for An Bord Pleanála Board members for the worse, and we believe it will very seriously compromise the independence of the State’s top planning body. The Bill hands unchecked powers to the Minister for Housing and complete discretion in determining the Board member appointment process. It also provides no safeguards and no provisions for Oireachtas oversight. In fact it specifically removes existing safeguards on Ministerial powers.

How does the Bill compromise An Bord Pleanála’s independence?

It gives the Minister unrestricted power and carte blanche to create a procedure of his or her choosing for appointing ordinary Board members to An Bord Pleanála and then also the power to ultimately make the appointments. It would also allow the Minister to unilaterally change the size and configuration of the board and make temporary appointments, including of the chairperson, without those people going through an open, transparent, competitive selection process. The Bill removes all safeguards, Oireachtas oversight, and checks and balances on these powers, essentially giving the Minister the power to stack the Board with his or her appointees, including ones that have not gone through a rigorous open recruitment process. Such a process is vital to ensure that the balance and mix of appropriate skills and knowledge is maintained on the Board. For the Board to function at the very expert professional level we need it to, and given its vital role in making decisions in the public interest, it’s key that An Bord Pleanála is fully independent from Government. Giving a Minister such unrestricted powers to appoint An Bord Pleanála’s decision makers will seriously compromise that independence, potentially to the detriment of good decision making.

Reform the existing appointments system, don’t scrap it.

Currently appointments to the Board of An Bord Pleanála are made via a series of panels representing a range of civil society groups that can nominate candidates. This system is by no means perfect, but it does provide for significant input from civil society, something which is key for the independence of the Board and to ensure there is a limit to the extent of Ministerial control over the Board. This existing system can, and should be, reformed to ensure transparency, accountability, public confidence and to uphold An Bord Pleanála’s independence. The Joint Oireachtas Committee’s Pre-Legislative Scrutiny report and recommendations on the Bill very clearly prioritise this approach, but the Bill does exactly the opposite.

Are changes to the appointments process urgent?

The Government claims this Bill is urgently needed to fill vacancies on the Board, and to address the growing backlog of cases. However, the Minister already has powers under the existing system to fill those vacancies - Minister Darragh O’Brien has just failed to do it. The Government is now exploiting this failure to change the An Bord Pleanála appointments process to concentrate power in the hands of the Minister and entirely remove existing provisions for Oireachtas oversight.

The current legislation also allows the Board to operate without a chairperson. But Minister O’Brien is using the current situation to bypass the normal, rigorous process and instead appoint an interim chairperson who would then be potentially allowed to remain in post permanently.

How does this fit in with the wider review of planning legislation?

This Bill is not the main set of changes to the planning legislation coming on foot of the Attorney General’s review - that will be going through the Oireachtas early in 2023. That legislation will likely significantly curtail the right to challenge unlawful planning decisions in court, meaning communities could lose access to the fundamental checks and balances intended to protect our environment and communities. However, this current Bill is a dangerous precursor - it compromises the Board and increases the likelihood of flawed decisions. So that combined with a loss of access to the courts to challenge flawed decisions make a perfect storm scenario.

Changes to the definition of the foreshore:

The Bill also proposes changes to the definition of the foreshore, which extends up to the 12 nautical mile limit of Ireland’s territorial waters. The new definition is designed to ensure oversight of surveys in the foreshore area which we welcome. However, there are significant concerns that the proposed changes may exclude access for various other marine users, including fishers and the public. There are multiple, differing legal views on the implications of the new definition, highlighting the importance of not rushing the legislation and of taking a much more careful and nuanced approach.



Urgently contact your TDs before Wednesday 14th December to tell them that you strongly oppose giving the Minister unchecked powers in the An Bord Pleanála appointments system. The changes will not solve the crisis of flawed decision making at An Bord Pleanála and would likely make things far worse and further compromise public confidence in the Board. It is an entirely inappropriate political response. Also tell your TDs that we need a much more nuanced approach to foreshore licensing and that rushing through this legislation without proper scrutiny is not an acceptable approach to lawmaking. You can find your TDs’ contact details at  


Compromising the independence of An Bord Pleanála will not restore public confidence in the Board and will not improve the quality or lawfulness of the Board’s decisions.

Download this explainer as a PDF here