Latest News

Latest vacancies on TRA's Planning Jobs Board - 30/03/15

TRA's new Planning Jobs Board was successfully launched in October 2014 and is proving increasingly popular as a means of gaining additional publicity for local authority vacancies. We usually have between 20 and 35 vacancies listed at any one time.

The advertising service is entirely free to local authorities handling their own recruitment (unfortunately we can't offer it to recruitment agencies). We are keen to include planning roles of all types including those in planning support and planning enforcement. It is also free to search for those looking for a new opportunity. The Jobs Board was set up as an additional service for our public sector clients and as a way of encouraging more people to visit our website.

Here are some of the current vacancies (with closing dates in April):

So if you are looking for a new challenge, visit TRA’s Planning Jobs Board regularly – it could change your life!

If, on the other hand, you would like to advertise a vacancy on our Jobs Board you can download our 1-page pdf which provides more information. Alternatively, you can simply send your text and the authority's logo (if you would like this to be included) 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.


Conference for Planning Support Staff - details now finalised! - 24/03/15

Details are now available to view on the website for the forthcoming 2015 Conference for Planning Support Staff, which will be taking place at The Wesley in London on 25 June 2015.

This annual event represents a valuable opportunity to meet with colleagues from other authorities and learn about current best practice and future developments affecting planning support.

TRA aim to support all staff contributing to planning service delivery and in this crucial period of continuing uncertainty and challenges for support staff, this year's conference aims to allow participants the opportunity to understand the current shape and focus of their service delivery and what it might look like in the future. As always, the event involves a mixture of general presentations and smaller group sessions in which participants can discuss topics in more detail. The contributors and topics under discussion will be:

  • VIVIEN GREEN, Planning Consultant and TRA Senior Associate - 10 things you should be doing but probably aren't....
  • NICOLA HAMILTON, Enforcement Team Leader at St Helens Council - Handling difficult customers - lessons learned from enforcement
  • KARL ROBERTS, Assistant Director of Planning Services at Arun District Council - How localism may affect support staff
  • CHRIS WEETMAN, independent planning consultant and TRA Associate - Delivering services in times of austerity

Once again the conference is being run in conjunction with the Planning Admin Network (PAN), a free online network open to anyone with an interest in the administration of the planning service in England, Wales and Scotland. Membership of PAN is absolutely FREE and registration is quick and easy via the PAN website.

A discounted price for the conference is available to PAN members of £175.00 (normal event price £190.00), and further discounts are available to all via our block booking scheme which offers between 10 and 15% discount for bookings of 2 or more places made at the same time over any number of events in the 2015 programme. (Please note - PAN member discounts are only available to those who registered on or before 20 March 2015).

Further details for the conference and a booking form are available on the TRA website. If you would like to attend but are unable to make a firm booking straight away, provisional bookings are recommended and can be made by telephoning 01204 385678 or via the online provisional booking facility.


Hammersmith & Fulham CIL approved by Examiner - 24/03/15

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham submitted its Draft CIL Schedule to Trevor Roberts Associates on 18 November 2014 and appointed Terrence Kemmann-Lane as the Examiner. A Hearing was held on 10 February 2015 and the Examination was concluded on 20 March 2015.  In his Report, the Examiner concluded that the Hammersmith & Fulham CIL Charging Schedule "provides an appropriate basis for the collection of the levy in the borough" and "is set at a level that will not put the overall development of the area at risk". He therefore recommended that, subject to four minor modifications, the CIL Schedule should be approved.

A recent article in Planning magazine reported that only a quarter of councils are likely to have a CIL schedule in place when the new rules restricting the use of s106 contributions come into force on 6 April. This is according to a report by Savills commissioned by the Home Builders Federation in February which found that 57 councils have adopted CIL schedules and 56 have draft schedules currently undergoing Examination. 

In terms of progress by the remaining authorities:

  • 42 authorities are committed to implementing CIL but have not yet started work
  • 58 authorities are currently undertaking preparatory work
  • 46 authorities have published a Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule, and
  • 28 authorities have published a Draft Charging Schedule.

If your authority is one of those working towards the implementation of CIL and you are interested in learning more about TRA's CIL Examination service please visit our website for further information. You can also contact Penny O'Shea to find out more, including likely costs, without obligation.


Test Valley Enforcement Officers polish up their report writing skills - 12/03/15

Test Valley District Council recently commissioned TRA to prepare and deliver an in-house bespoke workshop on Effective Report Writing, specifically for Enforcement staff.

The workshop provided attendees with an opportunity for debate about good practice, drawing on the presenter's, Lee Prebble, long experience in both planning enforcement and appeals.

The main objectives of the session were to:

  • provide a refresher on “material considerations” and an opportunity to discuss any grey areas
  • suggest guidance on what Councillors need from officers (and maybe what they don’t)
  • give advice on what to include in reports and what can safely be left out
  • show how a good report (whether for Committee or delegated) can greatly simplify the handling of straightforward appeals
  • give an insight into what Inspectors are looking for, and the way they currently approach  “written reps” cases
  • take a brief look at some recent appeal decisions.

Feedback from the attendees was very encouraging:

  • Good inputs on report structure which I will find very useful.
  • Nice presenter who has a good way of putting his knowledge across.
  • Gave me a better understanding of what needs to be included in a report; it also provided interesting information on Appeals.
  • It was a very useful refresher as well as covering a lot of material I was unaware of (planning involvement in enforcement reports).
  • It set out clearly what is expected of enforcement reports – what they should contain/purpose etc. Was good to have a discussion on appeal/inquiry points and to hear examples of experiences.

If you think that your authority might be interested in running an in-house workshop on writing enforcement reports (as above) or report writing in general, please contact Angela Holmes to discuss your requirements and/or receive a no obligation quotation.


Book now for workshops in Manchester in May 2015 - 10/03/15

As mentioned in last month's Enews, the TRA 2015 Training Workshop Programme will kick off in Glasgow on 30 April with a couple of recent additions to our training portfolio covering the Definition of Development and Basic Tree Hazard Assessment. The England & Wales programme is also due to start shortly with a batch of workshops all of which are also relatively new to the programme, having been introduced within the last 3 years. These are due to take place in Manchester on 20 May 2015. Bookings are already coming in but there is still time to reserve your place:

  • Effective Validation: good practice for all application types
    This extremely popular workshop is concerned with validating the wide range of applications submitted to a Planning Authority: planning, advertisement, listed building, certificates of lawfulness and prior notifications. The workshop will consider the different requirements for different types of application as set out in primary and secondary legislation (including the fee regime); Government policy on the use of local validation requirements; and when to ask for further information. Identification of statutory consultations, notifications and publicity usually follows from validation and identification of constraints, so the workshop will also ensure that participants are aware and up to date on the requirements for different application types. The workshop will conclude by considering how authorities deal with invalid applications, handle disputes and when an appeal against non-determination can be made. It will highlight the opportunities that exist through incremental and marginal changes to make this key element of the process both more efficient and effective.
  • Securing Good Design within the NPPF
    Taking up almost two pages in the NPPF, design remains a government priority in terms of decision and policy making. When more advice and support was available through CABE and supporting guidance, much of the technical detail and nuance was available to planners and their design advisors. Since then, times have changed but the principles of good design have not. This recently developed workshop is aimed at development management, planning policy and design officers and explores the basic principles of good design, as outlined in the NPPF. The main elements will be drawn out in an accessible and interactive way, providing the key tools and understanding required to bring high level guidance to life in your locality. Exploring design codes, integrating green infrastructure, responding to local character, creating a sense of place, and securing and negotiating quality outcomes will form the structure of the workshop. At the end, participants will be empowered to integrate good design into negotiations, local plans and decision making.
  • Basic Tree Hazard Assessment and Tree Preservation Orders
    Many Councils are now without specific tree officer resources, leaving planning departments with a skills shortage in terms of tree assessment, consultations on new planning applications and management for TPOs. This workshop has been developed to provide visual inspection training at a basic level 1 for staff from a non-arboricultural background. It aims to help participants identify obvious defects from ground level so they can report their findings and help determine the suitability of trees for a new TPO or whether works requested are suitable for their species and/or condition. Using a variety of techniques, including a site visit, the workshop considers the legal and safety implications of hazardous trees; how to recognise hazardous trees, determine the level of risk and decide on an appropriate course of action; and the importance of collecting and maintaining adequate information. The criteria for the serving of a new TPO will be explained and participants will gain a basic understanding of BS3998:2010 “Treework - Recommendations”.  They will also be encouraged to recognise their own limitations and maintain their own health and safety when carrying out visual inspections.

Further information and booking forms can be found on the website via the above links to each event. If you are unable to make a firm booking straight away, provisional bookings are recommended to reserve your place and can be made by telephone on 01204 385678 or via our online provisional bookings facility.

Bookings of 2 or more places made at the same time over any number of events will attract discounts of between 10 and 15% under our discounted block booking scheme (depending on the total number of places booked). Details are on the website and also on this special block booking form.


Training on protected trees for Oadby & Wigston Councillors, Officers & Tree Wardens - 03/03/15

TRA was recently approached by Oadby and Wigston Borough Council to create and present a one-day in-house workshop on Trees and the Planning Process, for the benefit of Councillors, Officers and Tree Wardens with responsibility for trees as part of their role.

The workshop provided training on protected trees, in particular tree preservation orders for those with a limited arboricultural knowledge base or non-arboricultural background. The training allowed participants to understand how and why trees are protected and help determine the suitability of subject trees for the serving of a new TPO or whether works requested to such trees are suitable for their species and / or condition.

The main course objectives were to help attendees:

  • gain a basic understanding of tree biology
  • gain a basic understanding of tree work
  • gain an understanding of trees and the law
  • make appropriate new tree preservation orders
  • deal with objections and applications to carry out work to trees
  • carry out administration relating to Tree Preservation Orders
  • understand what reasonably to expect regarding information on trees during the planning process.

The session was developed and delivered by TRA presenter, Sharon Hosegood and feedback from the participants was excellent:

  • Provided a very useful and timely refresher.  Steve Robishaw
  • A comprehensive coverage of range of topics.  I now feel better equipped to carry out my role as an elected member of OWBC.  David Carter
  • The presenter had a very good knowledge about trees.  Very helpful training and it was good to be involved in the same session as Councillors and Tree Wardens.  Stephen Dukes
  • Thank you for this clear and informative presentation! It was very engaging and educational.  It was great to see examples of suitable trees to be protected by TPOs and helpful to obtain advice regarding validation of applications and what standards are required for aboricultural report submissions. Sarah Booth
  • Met my expectations and more.  Thoroughly interesting and well presented.  M E Loydell.

This workshop is now available to all of our clients exclusively on an in-house basis, so if you would like to receive further details, such as an outline programme, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes for a detailed quotation.


Conference for Support Staff - details coming soon - 27/02/15

Our latest Conference for Planning Support Staff is coming up on 25 June at our London venue. The programme is currently being finalised but topics confirmed so far include:

  • "10 things you should be doing but might not be....", delivered by Vivien Green
  • "Dealing with difficult customers" - based on lessons learnt from enforcement
  • A debate on "the future of planning and support services post-election"

It is likely that full details will be available before our next issue of ENews in March so please check back on our website if you are interested in learning more.

Bookings can now be made for the Conference. Details of venue, price etc and a booking form can be found on our website. If you are not able to make a confirmed booking now but would like to reserve a place provisionally you can do so by calling 01204 385678 or using our online provisional booking facility


New workshop offering an Introduction to Appeals - 26/02/15

Involvement in appeals is an integral part of a planning officer's role and requires a clear understanding of the process and a range of specific skills. To assist those who are new to planning or have only limited experience so far we've introduced a new workshop on appeals in our 2015 programme. An Introduction to Appeals is delivered by Senior Associate David Kaiserman who was responsible for over 1500 appeal decisions as a Planning Inspector.

Aspects covered include:

  • rights of appeal
  • the role of Inspectors and the courts
  • recent trends, including the Government's view of how the appeals system should operate and the current culture and expectations of the Planning Inspectorate
  • key points from the Regulations
  • good practice guidance.

Practical advice is given on:

  • how to prepare adequately
  • what makes a good appeal statement (and what doesn't), and
  • the best approach to giving oral evidence, both at hearings and public inquiries.

Although new to our advertised programme, this workshop has been run previously on an in-house basis with exellent feedback:

  • Met my expectations and more! This was really great. The appeal examples were really useful and interesting - food for thought. Nicola Hughes, Canterbury CC
  • Very thorough examination fo the subject with plenty of information and opportunity to ask questions. Very well gauged to the varying levels of ability and experience. Stuart Hogg, Slough BC
  • Superb! Knew nothing of this process before embarking on this course - thank you! Alison Grovett, Canterbury CC.

The workshop is running at our London venue on 16 June. See the website for full details including a booking form. If you would like to attend but are not able to make a firm booking straight away places can be reserved provisionally either over the telephone on 01204 385678 or via our online provisional booking facility


From the North to the South: TRA delivers in-house training on the Basics of Planning - 26/02/15

TRA was recently commissioned to deliver two in-house training workshops, one in Perth and Kinross and the other in St Albans, as an Introduction to Planning.
 
These workshops provided a training opportunity for enforcement, administrative, clerical and technical staff who work in town planning, to learn about the key elements of the planning process, as well as any other staff who want to set their jobs in the wider context of the planning service (Building Control staff in St Albans’ case).

The sessions assisted participants in developing:

  • an understanding of the key elements of the planning process and how they relate to each other so that they can put their own jobs into context: this covers the key elements of the Development Planning regime, Development Management including conservation, appeals and enforcement
  • a basic understanding of the key legislative, policy and practice elements of the existing process, and changes that are proposed to the system, including validation requirements, permitted development, and the community infrastructure levy.

The workshop delivered in Perth and Kinross was presented by Mike Hyde, and the second session was delivered in St Albans by Lee Prebble, both resulted in some excellent feedback:

  • Very informative and was made interesting by the presenter.  The way in which the training was laid out was easy to follow.  Good handouts and scenarios to work through.  Kate Kelly
  • It gave a really good background and I feel I understand how the process works and where things fit in.  The change of use was particularly interesting. The section on Permitted Development was really clear and has given me ideas on how we can better ask questions. The presenter made it enjoyable and interesting and managed to cover a lot in a short space of time.  Liz Colledge
  • The training helped my understanding of the planning process and where I fit into all of this as a Customer Service Advisor. Vicky McNally
  • I found the training very interesting and in great detail. I do feel that it met my expectations in giving me a broad understanding in all aspects of planning and the stages a planning application goes through.  Paula Monaghan
  • I now feel a lot more confident in dealing with general customer enquiries, especially the difference between PD and Express Planning Permission – understanding about the timescales for objections to Planning Apps was also enlightening.  Kate Nicoll
  • Very informative presentation of the planning process, giving a good insight into procedures and policy. Glenda Day.

If you think that your authority might be interested in providing this kind of training on an in-house basis and you would like to receive a no obligation quotation, please contact Angela Holmes to discuss your requirements.


2015 Scotland programme begins soon with brand new workshop - 20/02/15

As mentioned in last month's enews, the 2015 TRA Training Workshop Programme has now been published, and this year the programme kicks off with a brand new workshop for our Scotland Programme:

Understanding and Defining Development
"Development" is the core of the statutory planning process and so it is essential that those working in any aspect of the process understand and are able to define what it is, as well as being aware of the ever-increasing body of relevant case law. Anyone who seeks to draft planning policies must understand the scope of what they can control or promote as much as anyone wanting to correctly answer questions about whether a planning application is needed or a development is PD. Effective enforcement also begins with correctly defining whether or not there has been "development" without planning permission.  This new workshop, which is equally appropriate for planners and those working in planning support and enforcement,  will look at the two principal elements of the extended definition; the types of operational development and "What constitutes a material change of use?” It will consider the complexities of the statutory inclusions and exclusions from the definition and provide a practical look at how to assess the “materiality” of a change of use.

Running alongside this workshop on the same day will be another relatively new workshop which was introduced to the programme in 2014 and proved very popular:

Basic Tree Hazard Assessment and Tree Preservation Orders
Many Councils are now without specific tree officer resources, leaving planning departments with a skills shortage in terms of tree assessment, consultations on new planning applications and management for TPOs. This workshop has been developed to provide visual inspection training at a basic level 1 for staff from a non-arboricultural background. It aims to help participants identify obvious defects from ground level so they can report their findings and help determine the suitability of trees for a new TPO or whether works requested are suitable for their species and/or condition. Using a variety of techniques, including a site visit, the workshop considers the legal and safety implications of hazardous trees; how to recognise hazardous trees, determine the level of risk and decide on an appropriate course of action; and the importance of collecting and maintaining adequate information. The criteria for the serving of a new TPO will be explained and participants will gain a basic understanding of BS3998:2010 “Treework - Recommendations”.  They will also be encouraged to recognise their own limitations and maintain their own health and safety when carrying out visual inspections.

Both these workshops will take place at the Novotel Hotel, Glasgow on 30 April 2015. Booking forms and further details can be found on our website via the above links to each workshop. Alternatively, if you are unable to make a firm booking straight away, places can be reserved provisionally either over the telephone on 01204 385678 or via our online provisional booking facility.

If you would like to book places on some of the earlier workshops in 2015 but pay for them in the new financial year, this is no problem. Simply write 'Invoice in April' on your booking form and we will book your place now but send you the invoice in April.

Don't forget, discounts of up to 15% are available when booking 2 or more places at the same time under our discounted block booking scheme. Further details of the scheme are on the website.


Flexible invoicing for the end of the financial year - 20/02/15

Approaching the end of the current financial year and the start of the new one can make things complicated for those wanting to book training: some people have money they need to spend before the end of the year and others want to book now but pay out of next year's budget.  At TRA, we do our best to help minimise these issues by being flexible with the timing of invoices.

A couple of typical scenarios should illustrate how we can help:

  • You find you have some money left in this year's budget (it does sometimes happen!) and you want to spend it on an in-house training session from TRA but it's not feasible to organise and run it before the end of the year. In a case like this, we are able to invoice now, so you can ensure the money is allocated, and agree a time later in the year to actually run the training course. To discuss options just contact Angela Holmes.
  • You've seen a TRA workshop or conference that you want to go on and you are keen to book now to make sure you get a place but the money will be coming out of next year's budget. In a case like this, we are happy to accept your booking now but not issue an invoice until after the start of the financial year. To ensure we invoice in April, please mark this clearly on your booking form or contact Shelagh Pooley to be doubly sure. 

We know that money for training is particularly hard to come by at the moment and we hope that by being flexible like this we can help make sure you don't miss out.


Neighbourhood Plan Examination service - 19/02/15

According to recent DCLG figures, 62% of all local planning authorities have now designated at least one Neighbourhood Plan area and the total designated so far is more than 1200.  More than 180 Draft Neighbourhood Plans have been published and over 100 have been submitted to the relevant LPA for publicity and independent examination.

The choice of Independent Examiner is down to the LPA (with the agreement of the Parish Council or Neighbourhood Forum) and they can appoint anyone who:

  • has appropriate qualifications and experience
  • is independent of the Parish Council or Neighbourhood Forum, and
  • has no interest in any land that may be affected by the proposed Plan.

TRA has put together a team of appropriately qualified and experienced practitioners to act as Independent Examiners for Neighbourhood Plans. Having provided support for the planning service for many years and being independent of both local and central government, TRA is ideally placed to offer this type of service to LPAs. All our examiners are Chartered Town Planners but have a wide range of backgrounds and experience, enabling us to suggest the most appropriate people based on the characteristics of the area, particular issues involved etc.

We recently handled the examination of two Neighbourhood Plans for South Kesteven DC (Stubton and Hough on the Hill), assigning Colin Blundel as the Independent Examiner.

The TRA service offers expert Examiners, a competitive pricing structure, and the excellent administrative backup and customer service for which TRA is well known.

Further information can be found on 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 via penny@tra-ltd.co.uk without obligation.


In-house training for Councillors on Specific Aspects of Planning - 05/02/15

TRA is the UK’s leading provider of practitioner-presented training for Councillors involved in planning and has trained Councillors in almost 240 local authorities throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
 
Even if this kind of training has traditionally been delivered by your own officers, it is certainly worth considering an “external” training session provided by TRA.  These sessions are delivered by our experienced team of presenters, all of whom are planning practitioners, as opposed to academics.
 
Where Councillors have already undertaken basic training, we are able to conduct more detailed sessions on specific aspects of planning. These are mainly half-day "modules" with a single presenter.  Topics include specialist aspects of planning and updates on policy, procedure and good practice. Some of the topics we can offer include:

  • a briefing on Neighbourhood Planning (NEW)
  • good practice for DM/planning Committees (NEW)
  • planning enforcement
  • avoiding costs awards at appeal (NEW)
  • trees and the planning process (NEW)
  • planning for wind farms
  • communication skills and/or working in partnership.

This is a small selection of the sessions that we can run exclusively on an in-house basis; a full list can be found on our website.  If required we are also happy to consider designing bespoke sessions, or tailoring an existing programme to suit an individual client’s needs – please do not hesitate to ask if you have any specific requirements.  

If you would like to see more information on any of our in-house training workshops for Members, including an outline programme, then please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes for a no-obligation quotation.

Please note that the prices we quote are “all in” and therefore include all of our fees, presenters expenses and pre-course/course documentation, this means that there are no hidden extras and our clients are aware what they can expect to pay at the outset.