Planning board told it must explain decisions
An Bord Pleanála has been told to set out the reasons why it overturns inspectors' recommendations to either grant or refuse planning permission.
A high-level review of the planning appeals board says it is a "severe weakness" that it does not employ a lawyer to help draft decisions.
It notes that the agency had previously sought but been refused funding to employ a full-time solicitor or barrister.
The review of operations at the State's independent planning authority finds that the board has a "well-deserved outstanding reputation" for its "impartiality and integrity", but that it requires changes to make it more "efficient, flexible and responsive to change".
Chaired by Gregory Jones QC, some 101 recommendations have been made.
They include a requirement to engage more with the public, to introduce statutory time periods to decide certain types of cases and to set out more detailed reasons for its decisions.
The review finds that the board's emphasis on its independence has led to a "reputation for isolation from the public and stakeholders", which has led to a perception of a lack of transparency.
It said the Government must also address the "complexity" of planning law, which would enable more efficient practices across all sectors of the planning system.
The Irish Planning Institute said a requirement that the board set out why it disagreed with its inspectors' decisions was "important".
The review also said two board members should be recruited through open competition, not directly appointed.