Existing studies that question the role of planning as a state institution, whose interests it serves together with those disputing the merits of collaborative planning are all essentially concerned with the broader issue of power in society. Although there have been various attempts to highlight the distorting effects of power, the research emphasis to date has been focused on the operation of power within the formal structures that constitute the planning system. As a result, relatively little attention has been attributed to the informal strategies or tactics that can be utilised by powerful actors to further their own interests. This article seeks to address this gap by identifying the informal strategies used by the holders of power to bypass the formal structures of the planning system and highlight how these procedures are to a large extent systematic and (almost) institutionalised in a shadow planning system. The methodology consists of a series of semi-structured qualitative interviews with 20 urban planners working across four planning authorities within the Greater Dublin Area, Ireland. Empirical findings are offered that highlight the importance of economic power in the emergence of what essentially constitutes a shadow planning system. More broadly, the findings suggest that much more cognisance of the structural relations that govern how power is distributed in society is required and that ‘light touch’ approaches that focus exclusively on participation and deliberation need to be replaced with more radical solutions that look towards the redistribution of economic power between stakeholders.