Latest News

New Green Belt development workshop for Councillors - 24/05/16

Following the introduction of a new workshop for officers on Development in the Green Belt as part of our 2016 training programme, we can now offer a similar session for Councillors.

Understanding Development in the Green Belt is a three hour workshop which can be delivered at a time of day to suit Councillors' other commitments, whether that's morning, afternoon or evening.

The session begins by considering the purpose of Green Belt before moving on to it's main focus - what you can and cannot do in the Green Belt - looking at the NPPF, the role of development plan policies, the difference between appropriate and inappropriate development, and what is meant by very special circumstances.

The workshop includes practical work on a case study looking at a range of Green Belt issues and a round-up of important case law.

If you would like to know more about this workshop and how it can be run for your authority please contact Angela Holmes.


Latest Support Staff Conference focuses on change - 23/05/16

TRA’s 2016 Planning Support Conference took place last week in London. 73 delegates from 38 LPAs heard a well-rounded series of presentations and debate around the future of planning.  In light of more and more Government proposals to alter how the planning system operates and who provides it, the theme for this year’s Conference was "change".

Peter Lerner, TRA Senior Associate, and currently Interim Director responsible for planning at Hounslow, took delegates through the pros and cons of opening up the processing of planning applications to alternative providers. Peter focused on a number of uncertainties that still exist around the proposal and expressed his belief that for a number of good reasons it was unlikely to be successful without further consideration of aspects such as member and third party inter-relationships.

Nick Harding, Head of Planning at Peterborough and Fenland Councils, where he manages a shared service, explained in detail the challenges and benefits of LPAs merging their services. Nick’s thoughtful insight into the problems he faced and how, to date, they have been overcome, gave food for thought that LPAs can make the model work with a lot of hard work and no little flexibility from those involved.

Vivien Green, TRA Senior Associate rounded the morning off with a brief overview of recent procedural changes in development management.  After lunch Vivien continued her presentation by demonstrating how the Government’s changes have affected the amount of development proposals now within LPAs’ determination as a result of the rise of Prior Approval Notifications, greater flexibility in permitted development and increased powers for direct Government intervention.

This led perfectly into a round-table discussion led by Chair Chris Weetman, TRA Associate and independent planning consultant. The good humoured and thoughtful debate focused on where the panel believe that planning is going, and what issues and challenges it faces. These included ensuring there is a balance between speed, quality of decision making, good customer service and good design, in what is seen as an increasingly Treasury-led process. 

The debate was a move away from the traditional breakout workshop format and allowed delegates to hear how the changes could affect them and what they could do to get more involved in their own authorities to influence and respond to a changing planning landscape.

The final member of the panel, the well-travelled Simon Rowberry who is currently interim Planning Policy Manager at South and Vale Council, demonstrated how he believes that support staff are the bedrock of planning, providing an invaluable skill set not readily available in the private sector. Simon’s conclusions were that change is not going away, and that staff have to be flexible, embrace change and influence it where they can.

Feedback on the day was positive:

  • Having only been in planning support for a year I feel the session has enlightened me to the bigger picture.  Tracy Lynch, Watford BC
  • I thought the format of the round table discussion was excellent with all the speakers bouncing questions and ideas off each other. Dan Nickson, Cheshire West & Chester Council
  • Structure of the conference worked well. Really enjoyed round table discussion after lunch. Robyn Chandler, Maldon DC
  • Very helpful and excellent opportunity to hear from others in a similar situation including professionals with previous experience. Carrie Chan, Chiltern DC.

Current vacancies on Planning Jobs Board - 23/05/16

Here's our pick of the current vacancies on our Planning Jobs Board (with closing dates in late May and June):

Advertising on TRA's Jobs Board is entirely free to local authorities handling their own recruitment. It is also free to search for those looking for a new opportunity so if you are in the market for a new challenge, visit TRA’s Planning Jobs Board regularly.

If you would like to advertise a vacancy you can download our 1-page pdf which provides more information. Alternatively, you can simply send your text and the authority's logo to jobsboard@tra-ltd.co.uk. The Jobs Board is fully managed by TRA's staff in Bolton to ensure that the whole process of advertising is as quick and hassle-free as possible.

And please - if you do apply for one of these vacancies we'd be really grateful if you could mention that you saw it on the TRA Planning Jobs Board (most application forms ask this question).


Examiner recommends Arley Neighbourhood Plan for referendum - 23/05/16

The examination of the Arley Neighbourhood Plan, submitted to TRA by North Warwickshire BC, was completed in April. The Examiner Brian Dodd concluded that, subject to some modifications, the Plan meets the "basic conditions" and other legal tests required. He therefore recommended that the Plan should proceed to a Referendum once modified. The Borough Council will now consider the Examiner's report and make a decision on whether the Plan will proceed to this next stage.

The Neighbourhood Plan Examination service provided by TRA offers a competitive pricing structure and the excellent administrative backup and customer service for which TRA is well known.

If you would like to know more about the service please visit the Neighbourhood Plan Examinations page of our website. If you are interested in receiving a quotation or have any additional questions you can contact Penny O'Shea on 01204 385678 or penny@tra-ltd.co.uk without obligation.


TRA gears up for post-election training - 17/05/16

Following the local elections, the upcoming weeks are set to be a busy time for TRA as our presenters deliver training in planning matters for newly elected members and help to refresh the knowledge of experienced Councillors in local authorities.

Due to time commitments, which is often a major consideration when organising Councillor training, our short three hour sessions are proving to be particularly popular at the moment, several of which are running within the next couple of weeks in Great Yarmouth, Woking, Redditch, Hart and Milton Keynes.

These sessions are essentially shortened versions of our one day workshops A Briefing on Planning and The Role of Councillors in Planning.  Sessions can be run in a morning, afternoon or evening to suit and are delivered by one of our experienced presenters

Both sessions provide an overview of all the key elements that members need to be familiar with/aware of and are therefore an excellent basic grounding. They are suitable for both new/newer members and those with more experience; TRA presenters are used to handling groups of mixed experience levels.

Feedback from previous sessions has always been very encouraging:

A Briefing on Planning

  • As a new Councillor I found it very informative. Quite a dry subject but as a mandatory course, very useful. I liked the anecdotes! Sue Hobson, Derbyshire Dales DC
  • It was comprehensive and interesting, as well as being well delivered. I found it easy to understand and helpful. The presenter was open to questions, which he answered fully. Very enthusiastic. Joy Goodall, Tamworth BC
  • Very good delivery of a complicated subject. Content was excellent and was presented in a very good way that explained the subject very well indeed. Great course, superb presenter! Tony Madge, Tamworth BC
  • Even though I am an experienced development committee member, I found it informative and thought provoking. Sue Featherstone, St Albans DC.

The Role of Councillors in Planning

  • Informative and very interesting. As a new Councillor the notes will provide a good reference base for me. Maggie Prior, North Norfolk DC
  • One of the best training events I have been to! Gaynor Owen, West Lancs BC
  • A very good presentation, modified on the hoof to suit the audience. I learnt a lot and felt enthused and have taken three points back for review.  Emma Stokes, Wychavon DC
  • Very good.  Very interactive, current and interesting.  The presenter was very good and enthusiastic. A good trainer.  W Hartnett, Redditch BC.

As mentioned above, we can also deliver full day sessions, details of which can be found on our website.  If you are considering booking training for your Councillors please do not hesitate to get in touch with Angela Holmes who will be happy to provide you with a detailed quotation.


Workshops on Planning Conditions and Urban Design coming to Edinburgh - 10/05/16

The Scottish Workshop Programme is set to continue in June with two recent additions to the programme taking place in Edinburgh on 16 June 2016. Both these workshops proved very popular and were more or less fully booked for their first outing in Glasgow last year:

The Use and Abuse of Planning Conditions and Section 75 Obligations
Planning conditions or Section 75 Obligations can make the difference between the approval or the refusal of planning permission; they should therefore be necessary and reasonable.  They must be monitored to ensure compliance with their requirements, so should therefore also be precise and enforceable.  This recently developed workshop will examine the use of conditions and Planning Obligations with reference to Circulars 4/1998 and 3/2012, using genuine examples of both good and bad practice!  The procedures relating to the submission of applications to vary/discharge conditions and obligations will also be looked at in detail.

The Language of Urban Design
This recently developed workshop seeks to equip participants with a confident approach to negotiating and commenting on planning applications with an emphasis on clarity, objective criteria and communication to Members, stake-holders and developers. Using a variety of techniques, participants will explore the language of urban design through examples, field work and the exploration of local and national policy, in the context of best practice from the UK and abroad. Touching on developing, using and supporting local policy, the workshop will provide participants with an essential understanding of local distinctiveness, in the context of Scottish Planning Policy. With specific exercises that define such matters as scale, form, massing, layout, parking, roofline, the use of materials and the integration of contemporary design in context, the workshop will provide a solid grounding in urban design for a wide range of development professionals.
(Note - this workshop is now also included in our programme for England & Wales and will take place in London on 9 June 2016.)

We received some very positive comments from delegates who attended last year's workshops including:

"It was a good refresher and informative presentation. Best part was the discussions generated between people from different authorities and the presenter’s experiences" Malcolm White, Aberdeenshire Council (Planning Conditions)

"Good content, use of examples and informative participation and discussions" Fiona Knighton, North Ayrshire Council (Planning Conditions)

"Very interesting and very enthusiastic host. Was great to get out on site and look at the design in the area" Fiona Scott, Argyll & Bute Council (Urban Design)

"Very informative and was practical. Group exercise was good as it put knowledge into practice" Gavin Forrest, Stirling Council (Urban Design)

Further details and booking forms for these workshops are available on our website via the above links. If you are unable to send a booking form straight away for any workshop you are interested in attending, provisional bookings are recommended and can be made by telephone on 01204 385678 or via the online provisonal booking facility.

Don't forget - bookings of 2 or more places made at the same time over any number of events, will receive between 10 and 15% discount depending on the total number of places booked. Details are on this special discounted Block Booking form.


Securing good urban design in the Isle of Man - 09/05/16

TRA was recently commissioned by the Isle of Man Council to develop and deliver a bespoke two and a half day training session on the concepts of Urban Design. The course offered a unique opportunity for the Council’s planning officers and agents/architects to come together to better understand their role in the common goal of securing good design on the Isle of Man.

TRA Presenter, Tim Crawshaw, designed and delivered the training, creating a supportive and open environment where ideas could be explored with a view to promoting dialogue and a sense of common purpose, increasing the understanding of the priorities of clients, agents, policy planners, design and heritage specialists, and development managers.

Using a variety of participatory techniques, Tim provided the attendees with additional skills in developing and assessing schemes to reinforce local distinctiveness.  In addition, the role of design codes and guidance in the context of the Island's distinctive character was explored alongside practical approaches to negotiations and the development of a common design language.

Participant feedback following the training was excellent: 

  • The tailored nature of the training was really valuable, as was the more general guidance that backed it up. Tim is an excellent and engaging presenter. Ed Riley
  • The info was relevant and clearly understandable. The presenter was very enthusiastic about the subject. Would highly recommend the course. Chris Balmer
  • I greatly appreciated the feedback from Tim about not only our planning system but our environment. Tim was able to modify what he’s learned to our unique system very well.  Sarah Corlett
  • Clear and well presented, the topics covered were informative and relevant to what we do. The relaxed manner in which the information was presented helped to create informal discussions with some interesting topics. Jason Singleton
  • The workshop was very relevant to us all and was very thought provoking. It challenged our ideas and made us question them. Tim had a great way of enticing us all. Course very varied, interesting and informative. Erica Spencer.

Many of TRA’s workshops are based on bespoke requirements, such as the above, to ensure that our client’s needs are fully met with regards to training.  If you think that your authority might benefit from a tailored training session, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes directly to discuss the options available.


Post election training for Councillors: A final reminder before election day! - 27/04/16

With just over a week to go before local elections, TRA is now gearing up for a busy period delivering our extremely popular Councillor in-house training sessions.

We can respond to various training requirements, providing individual bespoke sessions as appropriate, but particularly popular in the post-election period are our one-day sessions:

If the time commitment for Councillors is a major consideration we can also offer shorter sessions (3 hours) with flexible timings during a morning, afternoon or evening. These sessions are essentially shortened versions of the above Briefing on Planning and Role of Councillors one-day workshops and are delivered by one presenter.

Please note that some authorities have already avoided the rush and booked their training days, so don’t leave it until the last minute, contact us today to secure your preferred date!

To see an outline programme without obligation, or to arrange a booking please contact Angela Holmes.


Two days of workshops in London on 8 & 9 June 2016 - 25/04/16

The TRA Training Workshop Programme for 2016 will see its first batch of London events taking place on 8 & 9 June 2016, which will include 3 brand new introductions to the programme for 2016. A number of places have already been snapped up for these events, but there are still some left on each workshop for those who would like to attend:

  • Use of Conditions: necessary, precise and enforceable? - 8 June 2016 (also in Manchester on 27 September 2016)
    This recently developed workshop is suitable for anyone involved in the drafting of conditions or in monitoring and enforcing them. Efforts to front-load the application process with the introduction of local information lists were intended to reduce the need for back-loading applications with conditions, but there is not much evidence that this has been successful. Developers’ concerns have prompted the Government to re-visit the subject and also to introduce changes to speed up the discharge of conditions. The workshop will consider these matters and also go “back to basics’ in respect of what the Act says about the ability to impose conditions. Topics will include: meeting the legal tests; using "model" conditions; the importance of giving sound and convincing reasons; how to deal with conditions suggested by consultees; control through s106 or condition?; and handling applications to vary/remove conditions. The NPPF requires LPAs to consider producing Local Enforcement Plans, not only to explain how they will deal with breaches of planning control but also “how they will monitor the implementation of planning permissions”. So this workshop will also look at the problems involved in monitoring and securing compliance with conditions. It will conclude by looking at ways in which all those involved can work together to improve effectiveness.
  • Development in the Green Belt (NEW) - 9 June 2016
    The urgent need to provide more land for development has led to increasing pressures on the Green Belt since the publication of the NPPF. Whilst the government has maintained its commitment to protecting the Green Belt, the NPPF is significantly different from its predecessor PPG2. Using case law from four major cases (Timmins v Gedling, Europa Oil & Gas, Fordent Holdings and Lee Valley) this brand new workshop will explore how the courts have interpreted national policy and how this should be applied by Councils in local circumstances. Participants will work together on case studies to consider development proposals in the Green Belt in the light of those legal interpretations.
  • The Language of Urban Design (NEW) - 9 June 2016
    This new workshop seeks to equip participants with a confident approach to negotiating and commenting on planning applications with an emphasis on clarity, objective criteria and communication to Members, stakeholders and developers. Using a variety of techniques, participants will explore the language of urban design through examples, field work and the exploration of local and national policy, in the context of best practice from the UK and abroad. Touching on developing, using and supporting local policy, the workshop will provide participants with an essential understanding of local distinctiveness, in the context of the NPPF. With specific exercises that define such matters as scale, form, massing, layout, parking, roofline, the use of materials and the integration of contemporary design in context, the workshop will provide a solid grounding in urban design for a wide range of development professionals.
  • Ensuring Effective Enforcement: drafting the notice through to compliance (NEW) - 9 June 2016
    This brand new workshop is aimed at any enforcement, planning and legal officers who are involved in drafting, defending and securing compliance with enforcement notices. It would be ideal for anyone who has attended TRA's other enforcement workshops or seeks a refresher to their enforcement studies. It is a practical session looking in detail at the elements of drafting an enforcement notice and trying to "proof" it against potential grounds of appeal and invalidity. Consideration will be given to defending the notice on appeal including: the types of appeal; what is required in statements/proofs; preparation for/appearance at Hearings and Inquiries; and the site inspection.  Securing compliance (and potentially some recompense) with an extant notice is essential to maintain the integrity of the planning process so the pros and cons of the range of available options will be considered including the use of POCA.

Further details for each of these workshops can be found on the TRA website by following the above links, where you will also find a downloadable booking form. If you are unable to send a firm booking straight away for any workshops(s) you may be interested in, places can be reserved provisonally either by telephone on 01204 385678 or via our online provisional bookings page of the website.

Discounts of between 10 and 15% are available when making bookings of 2 or more places at the same time over any number of events in the programme (depending on the total number of places booked). Further details can be found on the Discounted Block Booking form and details of other workshops in the 2016 programme covered by this scheme are on the website.


Latest vacancies on Planning Jobs Board - 25/04/16

A bumper crop of situations vacant at the moment.... These are the current vacancies on our Planning Jobs Board (with closing dates in late April and May):

Advertising on TRA's Jobs Board is entirely free to local authorities handling their own recruitment. It is also free to search for those looking for a new opportunity so if you are in the market for a new challenge, visit TRA’s Planning Jobs Board regularly.

If you would like to advertise a vacancy you can download our 1-page pdf which provides more information. Alternatively, you can simply send your text and the authority's logo to jobsboard@tra-ltd.co.uk. The Jobs Board is fully managed by TRA's staff in Bolton to ensure that the whole process of advertising is as quick and hassle-free as possible.

And please - if you do apply for one of these vacancies we'd be really grateful if you could mention that you saw it on the TRA Planning Jobs Board (most application forms ask this question).


Colchester BC hosts joint training with neighbours on Validation and Conditions - 18/04/16

Colchester Borough Council recently sought the services of TRA to deliver two in-house workshops for the benefit of their officers and staff from neighbouring authorities.  The sessions were run on consecutive days and covered Effective Validation and The Use of Conditions.

The Effective Validation workshop looked at the validation processes for a wide range of application types including:

  • Outline / reserved / full applications for planning permission
  • Applications for advertisement and listed building content
  • Certificates of Lawfulness (existing and proposed)
  • Prior approval notifications.

For the different regimes the workshop considered:

  • The validation requirements for each application type as set out in primary and secondary legislation
  • The fee regime
  • The regimes which allow the use of local validation requirements; how these are operated and kept up to date
  • When statutory consultation and notification is required
  • Statutory press / site / neighbour publicity
  • How authorities deal with invalid applications, handle disputes and when an appeal against non-determination can be made.

The aim of the Use of Conditions workshop was to improve the writing, use and enforcement of conditions and was aimed at staff who are involved in drafting conditions or in monitoring and enforcing them.
 
Specific topics included:

  • meeting the legal tests for the use of conditions
  • using "model" conditions (including those used by the Planning Inspectorate)
  • the importance of giving sound and convincing reasons
  • how to deal with conditions suggested by consultees
  • control through s106 or condition?
  • Handling applications to vary/remove conditions.

Both sessions were developed and delivered by TRA Senior Associate, Vivien Green and were well received, as the following participant feedback suggests:

Effective Validation

  • Very good and interesting, learnt a lot.
  • Was good to find out how other authorities work. The content was excellent and well presented.
  • Very informative, interesting. Good to learn what other teams from other authorities do and how differently they carry out the same tasks. Good day.
  • As someone completely new to planning, this was a good introduction. There is a lot to take in, but it was good for me to start hearing the ins and outs of the planning application process.

Use of Conditions

  • Very detailed, covered legislation as well as case law. Good balance of lectures and round table teamwork. Lots of questions answered – excellent thank you!
  • Really well presented and informative. Always up to date and knowledgeable.
  • Very thorough and good use of workshop. Plenty of time for questions.
  • Really well presented and informative; handouts really useful.

TRA has always encouraged clients who only have a small number of staff to train, to gauge interest and invite staff from neighbouring authorities to join in with training wherever possible.  This can help to reduce the per-capita cost considerably. Delivering joint training with neighbouring authorities is an option that a number of our clients have chosen, with very positive results. On this basis, we would need to deal with just the one authority as our lead-client for liaison, administrative and invoicing purposes; the client is then free to "sell-on" any spare places. 

If you think that your authority would benefit from either of the above workshops, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes who would be happy to provide you with a detailed proposal, including an outline programme.


Arley Neighbourhood Plan examination organised by TRA - 14/04/16

The latest neighbourhood plan examination to be organised through TRA's Independent Examination Service is for the Arley Neighbourhood Plan.  The plan was submitted by North Warwickshire Borough Council in March and Brian Dodd has been appointed as the Examiner.

Our Neighbourhood Plan examination service offers a competitive pricing structure and the excellent administrative backup and customer service for which TRA is well known. We can usually put forward a suggested Examiner (or Examiners) within a few days. If you would like to know more about the service please visit our Neighbourhood Plan Examination page.

If you are interested in receiving a quotation or have any additional questions you can contact Penny O'Shea on 01204 385678 or penny@tra-ltd.co.uk without obligation.


Fylde and Shepway provide focused training for their Town and Parish Councillors - 14/04/16

TRA was recently commissioned by both Fylde and Shepway Councils to deliver in-house training for Town and Parish Councillors in their area.

The 3 hour session - A Briefing on Planning for Town and Parish Councils is aimed at Councillors and Clerks and designed to enable participants to make a more effective contribution to the Development Management process. It is a general Planning overview and the main aims of the session are:

  • to familiarise participants with the overall framework of the planning system and where development management fits into this 
  • to explain the basic components of the development management process and where Parish/Town Councils fit in
  • to explain some key concepts of the development management decision-making process, to enable Parish/Town Councils to relate to these effectively
    generally, to clarify the potential for, and the limitation of, Parish/Town Council input.

The workshop in Fylde was delivered by TRA Presenter, David Kaiserman; while the training in Shepway, which was delivered twice on the same day in order to capture as big an audience as possible, was delivered by Jed Griffiths.
 
Participant feedback from the sessions was excellent:

  • Very interesting, well-organised and informative. Shirley Delany (Freckleton PC)
  • A very good leader, very confident and obviously has extensive knowledge. Les Fragwe (Greenhalgh with Thistleton PC)
  • Extremely knowledgeable but purveyed in a simple, understandable manner. David Kirkham (Ribby with Wrea PC)
  • Was better than expected both in depth and range of material and made relevant to the position of Councillors in the structure. Neil Jones (Folkstone TC)
  • Very informative. Presenter enthusiastic, very knowledgeable and with a sense of humour. Paul Dimmock (Stelling Minnis PC)
  • Very interesting and presented in a manner that held my concentration. Extremely relevant to my role and will help our PC produce planning application responses in a more structured manner.  Joanne Howes (Lympne PC)
  • Met my expectations.  I attend numerous CPD events and this was very good indeed. Christine Barnett (Lympne PC)

If you are interested in finding out more about in-house training for Town and Parish Councillors please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes directly for a detailed quotation.  The prices we quote are inclusive of all of our fees, presenter’s expenses and pre-course/course documentation. This means that there are no ‘hidden extras’ and our clients are aware from the outset what they can expect to pay at the invoicing stage. 


TRA successfully completes 2016 training series for Worcestershire Planning Officers Group - 13/04/16

In November 2015, following a successful tendering process, TRA was once again commissioned by the Worcestershire Planning Officers Group (WPOG) to prepare and deliver a programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training sessions aimed at district and county planning officers in Worcestershire.

WPOG membership is made up of Worcestershire County Council and the District/Borough Councils of Worcester City, Malvern Hills, Wyre Forest, Wychavon, Bromsgrove and Redditch.

Four specific topic areas were chosen for the training series, which ran once a month starting in January, these were:

  1. A Development Management Update
  2. Renewable Energy
  3. Planning for Infrastructure
  4. A Planning and Housing Bill Update.

If you think your authority might be interested in taking this approach and setting up a series of workshops for Officers and/or staff, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes with your requirements who will be happy to provide you with a ‘no obligation’ quotation.


TRA involved in LGA/NALC events for Town & Parish Leaders - 21/03/16

TRA was recently invited to contribute to a series of development events for Town & Parish Council Leaders being organised by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and the Local Government Association (LGA).  Each event, which ran over three days, covered a range of topics of interest to Town & Parish Leaders, one of which was the planning system. TRA got involved because of its place on the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) approved supplier framework.

The planning workshop was delivered four times during January and February by TRA Associate, Andrew Ashcroft; three sessions were for Leaders and one was for officers from NALC who are responsible for training. The aim of the workshop was to increase understanding of planning and the role of Town and Parish councils in decision making, including through neighbourhood planning. The feedback from delegates was very positive:

  • Good speaker who covered a difficult area (for me) very well
  • Lots of info for me to develop my knowledge
  • Excellent, fast paced, interesting with useful tips
  • Very informative – lots of very interesting and helpful details, top tips and suggestions, very good!

TRA is the leading provider of training for Councillors involved in planning and our courses include a number of options for those involved at Town and Parish level. Further information and feedback from those who have attended can be found on our website:

If you would like further information on any of these training options, without obligation, please contact Angela Holmes.