Latest News

First CIL Examination for TRA - 23/10/14

It's taken a while to get the message out there that CIL Charging Schedules don't necessarily have to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination...  But the first Schedule submitted to TRA is now undergoing examination and a Public Hearing has been arranged for 11 November 2014.

The Camden CIL Schedule was submitted to TRA on 28 August 2014 and has been allocated to experienced Examiner Terry Kemmann_Lane.

Visit our CIL Examinations page for further information on this service. You can also contact Penny O'Shea to find out more, including likely costs, without obligation.


Is your customer care up to scratch? - 23/10/14

In an increasingly demanding world where users expect a quality service at minimum cost, the provision of a quality customer-orientated service can go a long way to achieving the quality outcomes that an Authority strives to achieve. Whether as part of the Development Plan or Development Management process – understanding who your customers are and how their needs might be met is an often overlooked element of the job. Traditionally, many authorities have either taken little account of their customers’ needs or gone too far in acceding to their demands. Finding that ideal centre position where the customer’s reasonable expectations are met is a difficult goal.

TRA’s one-day interactive workshop Managing the Planning Customer's Experience provides planners with an understanding of why customer care matters more than ever before, and how to deliver good customer care at little or no extra cost in terms of time and money.

Topics covered include:

  • What is good customer care in planning?
  • Why customer care matters
  • Listening skills
  • How to communicate clearly
  • How to handle planning complaints
  • The use of technology in customer care
  • Dealing with internal customers and partners.

This workshop is part of a series of in-house sessions that has been developed by TRA presenter, Chris Weetman, and techniques used include short presentations by Chris, complemented by group work and discussion sessions.

Feedback from previous participants of this workshop has been excellent:

  • I found the workshop very interesting. The practical exercises punctuated the presentation well. Evelyn Ann Wilson, South Lanarkshire Council
  • The workshop case studies and anecdotes worked very well. Stephen Fair, Argyll and Bute Council
  • Really good to focus on customer care for planning and hearing experiences from Chris. Lesley Cuthbertson, Argyll and Bute Council
  • Good refresher and thought provoking. I’ll be amending the response to a complaint that I wrote on the train here! Sarah Iles, East Sussex County Council
  • It was a very stimulating and insightful workshop and the use of case studies was very helpful. Aidan Gardner, Mole Valley District Council
  • Good mix of workshop and lecture. Case studies help to explore areas covered. Rob Morgan, Three Rivers District Council.

If you would like more information on this workshop, or any of the workshops in the Management and Personal Development series, then please do not hesitate to contact Angela who will be happy to provide you with a no-commitment quotation.  The prices that we quote are fully inclusive of fees, presenter expenses and pre-course/course material, so there are no hidden extras and the client knows from the outset what they can expect to pay at invoicing stage.


Visit our new Planning Jobs Board - it could change your life! - 22/10/14

This Monday saw the launch of the new TRA Planning Jobs Board.  We've been really encouraged by the initial response and hope this new service will prove very popular.

Authorities advertising with us so far stretch from Aberdeen to Spelthorne and vacancies cover roles in development managent, neighbourhood planning, enforcement, conservation and design. Take a look now....and re-visit regularly for more vacancies. 

The Planning Jobs Board is entirely free for both advertisers and those looking for a new role. If you would like to advertise your vacancy, there's a 1-page pdf which gives the basic details, and you can contact Penny O'Shea to arrange your advert.


Melton Councillors receive tailored training on good Committee practice and avoiding costs - 22/10/14

TRA was recently commissioned by Melton Borough Council to deliver two bespoke half-day training sessions for their Councillors.

The first session ‘Good practice for Planning/Development Management Committees’ was developed and delivered by TRA presenter, Lee Prebble.

Although the vast majority of planning decisions are taken by officers acting on behalf of the Council under a formal delegation scheme some decisions, often the more controversial ones, are taken by the Planning/Development Management Committee. The way in which this Committee operates is highly sensitive, since even quite minor procedural deficiencies can raise the possibility of the legitimacy of decisions being challenged.  Committee procedures vary widely and in many cases are not subject to clear rules.

The workshop aims to improve practice by:

  • reviewing and improving some of the procedures and practices of the Planning Committee
  • assisting participants in the roles at the Planning Committee, so that they can act with confidence based on an awareness of what is required
  • encouraging participants to question their procedures where appropriate and to suggest/implement changes.

Participant feedback from the session was excellent:

  • Very well delivered, clear and well led
  • I enjoyed it, very interesting and informative. Everyone had a chance to participate
  • This training was enjoyable and informative. Excellent!
  • Very informative with stimulating presentation and discussion
  • The presenter coped very well with our questions.

The second session was based on a NEW inter-authority TRA workshop ‘Avoiding Cost Awards’ which was developed and delivered by TRA presenter, Sue Glover.

The workshop explored best practice measures to help try and minimise costs awards against LPAs at appeal, even in sometimes difficult circumstances.  It took into account the particular planning policy context of Melton BC, and considered similar examples and practice elsewhere.

The session demonstrated, at a time of significant resource constraints and with more costs applications being made, that it is possible to put into place measures to minimise the risk of a successful costs claim against an authority. It specifically covered:

  • The background to the costs advice set out in this year’s (2014) new national planning practice guidance and the changes from the now cancelled Circular 03/2009
  • What constitutes Unreasonable Behaviour for costs claims? With particular reference to matters affecting Councillors using examples of both “substantive” and “procedural” reasons for costs awards, covering committee decisions, reasons for refusal and the supporting evidence, the role of expert/technical advice, and other material considerations such as extant permissions and permitted development
  • Useful tips and information to implement best practice procedures to avoid costs claims, and how to defend costs claims if they are made.

Once again, participant feedback was very encouraging:

  • Exceeded my expectations, it helps to know that we are getting things right!
  • Very much met my expectations.  Endorsed some of the things I knew already and expanded that knowledge greatly, thank you!

If your authority has any specific training requirements for Councillors or you would be interested in receiving more information on the above mentioned workshops, please contact Angela Holmes, without obligation.


Workshop on Enforcement of Listed Building Control - 21/10/14

After a successful 30th Anniversary year, the TRA Training Programme for 2014 will end with a group of workshops taking place at our Manchester venue on 18 November 2014.

One of these workshops, recently introduced to the TRA programme, has proved particularly popular but there are still a number of places remaining on its forthcoming outing:

Enforcement of Listed Building Control - will provide a valuable introduction or essential CPD for enforcement officers who investigate and deal with breaches of Listed Building Control and complements our existing workshops on the "Basics" and the "Core Elements" of Planning Enforcement. It is suitable for planning and conservation officers who may get drawn into dealing with breaches of listed building control, managers who may have to authorise taking enforcement action or lawyers who have to draft notices or consider prosecutions. The workshop will look at the legislative framework (including relevant provisions of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act), the pros and cons of using particular procedures, and current best practice. Topics covered during the day will include: what is listed, defining the curtilage, what constitutes a breach of listed building control, investigations and use of statutory notices to obtain information, when to caution, using enforcement tools, appeals, whether to "prosecute (s9 and s43), what has to be proven/statutory defences and the use being made of POCA.  Reference will be made throughout to relevant case law. 

Further details including a downloadable leaflet and booking form can be found on the TRA website. If you are unable to make a firm booking straight away, provisional bookings are recommended and can be made by telephoning 01204 385678 or via our online provisional booking facility.

Don't forget, discounts are available when booking 2 or more places at the same time (over any number of events) via our discounted block booking system - details of this are also on the website.


Another great Enforcement Forum - 15/10/14

TRA has always recognised that the integrity of the entire planning system depends on effective enforcement and our annual Forum on Enforcement provides valuable CPD for the wide range of people involved in enforcement work.  It also offers the opportunity, particularly during the parallel workshop sessions and over lunch and coffee breaks, for practitioners to exchange ideas, discuss enforcement issues and meet colleagues.

As always, we were very pleased that this year's Forum on Enforcement was well attended, with some people travelling considerable distances to get there.  For those of you who were not able to attend, here's what you missed ...

The opening plenary session was delivered by David Hainsworth, Solicitor and Planning Inspector, who provided a legal update on a number of recent cases with relevance to planning enforcement.  These included cases relating to when and how to enforce, the application of the 4 and 10 year time limits, material changes of use and ‘positive deception’.  David’s session was well received, and spot on for those of us who never seem to be able to find the time to read the Journal of Planning and Environmental Law every month!

Delegates then had the choice of attending two out of three parallel sessions:

  • Charles Allingham, Principal Planning Enforcement Officer with Welwyn Hatfield BC, spoke about the topical issue of Deliberate Concealment with reference to the decision in the Beesley case.  Charles concluded by illustrating the relevance of this with reference to one of his current cases.
  • Ian Marshall, Director at Environment and Heritage Solutions, talked about Dealing Effectively with Heritage Crime.  Given the sheer scale of the issue (c75,000 heritage crimes were committed in 2011), Ian identified the many ‘players’ involved in the protection of heritage assets, and suggested ways in which they could work better together.
  • Tim Rolt, Planning Enforcement Manager with the London Borough of Brent looked at the Proceeds of Crime Act.  Brent have a significant number of unauthorised flat conversions to deal with and Tim explained how POCA had been used by his Authority since 2011 to successfully bring in over £800,000 in payments!

To end the day David Armstrong, Solicitor, Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist, gave another of his lively and amusing sessions, this time looking at the provisions contained in the new Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (or the 'Gits Act' as he succinctly put it!).  This new piece of legislation contains a number of provisions that could assist in the resolution of planning enforcement issues including, for example, the 'Public Spaces Protection Order', aka the Super Section 215 Notice.

This year's Forum was chaired by Mike Hyde, Planning Consultant and TRA Associate.  In his introduction he reflected on his feeling that whilst the enforcement issues had not significantly changed since he first attended the Forum in 1999, the context in which planning enforcement operates, and the profile that the service now has, had changed fundamentally; Cinderella had finally made it to the ball!

  • Good range of relevant topics, which was the attraction in the first place. John Baggott, Wyre Forest DC
  • The quality of the speakers was excellent this year. A really informative and enjoyable day. Christine James, North West Leicestershire DC

Mike will be organising the programme for the Forum in 2015 and would welcome any ideas or suggestions with regard to format, subject matter etc. Please email any thoughts on this to Penny O'Shea.  Alternatively, you could 'tweet' your thoughts to us at @TRA_Limited. The date for the 2015 Forum with be announced shortly.


Follow us on Twitter - 08/10/14

We've just set up the new TRA Twitter feed @TRA_Limited and we'd love you to follow us - and encourage your colleagues to do the same. You'll be able to keep up-to-date with regular TRA news, behind the scenes info and special offers.

We're offering an incentive to those who get on board early - at the end of December we'll enter all our followers into a draw to win a free place at one of our 2015 workshop or conference events (the details of the 2015 programme will be available soon).

So why not follow us now on Twitter @TRA_Limited or just use the Follow Us link at the top right of our website.


Charnwood provides staff with Effective Witness training - 26/09/14

TRA was recently commissioned to deliver a one-day in-house workshop at Charnwood Borough Council.  The workshop, Being an Effective Witness at Inquiry, was aimed at both planners and other professionals e.g. architects, landscape architects, arboriculturists, environmental health officers etc. who may be required to act as an expert witness at an Inquiry.

The aim of the session was to provide all of those likely to be called as experts with an understanding of what needs to be included in the written submissions and their oral evidence, with an emphasis on sound preparation to ensure effective performance on the day.

The course specifically covered:

  • a brief background to appeals and the statutory requirements
  • pre-inquiry statements and their content
  • Pre-Inquiry Meetings
  • preparing a Proof
  • Statements of Common Ground
  • responding to the appellant’s evidence
  • co-ordinating evidence and preparing for the actual Inquiry
  • presenting evidence
  • responding to cross-examination and questions.

The workshop was delivered by TRA presenter, Lee Prebble, and feedback from the attendees was excellent:

  • As usual a very good training session, thanks!
  • It provided a very good overview of the issues.
  • It was a very thorough workshop, taking us through every stage of the Inquiry process and giving us a lot of tips and confidence in our role.
  • Met my expectations fully.  I feel like I have been given a good grounding in understanding PI’s and feel less intimidated by them.
  • A good comprehensive day, well delivered.
  • Very good information about the format and procedure of Public Inquiries.
  • Sensible advice was given about witness statements and statement of case preparation.
  • Very informative and will be useful in our roles. 

If you would like more information on potentially running this workshop on an in-house basis, please contact Angela Holmes directly who will provide you with a detailed proposal including an outline programme.

The workshop is also running as part of our inter-authority programme in London on 21 October. Places are still available. You can view the details on our website.


New "Jobs Board" coming soon - 25/09/14

We are currently working on a brand new feature for the TRA website. The Jobs Board will offer employers the opportunity to advertise their job vacancies on our site, which currently receives around 1,000 visits per month. The Jobs Board will also be accessible to the almost 3,000 subscribers who receive TRA ENews every month. 

Visitors to our website and ENews readers have a common interest in planning and development but they cover a wide range of roles, areas of activity and specialisms so we are hoping to attract a good variety of job types at different levels within organisations. For instance, as well as planning officers and those in management positions, we also have a large audience of technical and support staff working in planning and enforcement and jobs in these areas tend not to feature all that prominently on other job sites.

The service will be completely free for both employers and job-seekers. It will be fully managed by TRA’s staff in Bolton to ensure that the whole process of advertising is as quick and hassle-free as possible.

We are still finalising the details but hope to be able to launch the Jobs Board in the next month or so. So, if you are looking for a new opportunity then keep an eye out for details of the launch in future issues of ENews and if you are intending to advertise a vacancy within the near future then please do give our new service a try.


Tiverton Town Council hosts in-house training for local Councillors - 24/09/14

TRA is the UK’s leading provider of practitioner-presented training for Councillors involved in planning and has trained Councillors in more than 220 local authorities throughout the UK with an extensive track record of positive results.

You may not be aware that we are able to provide in-house training specifically aimed at Town & Parish Councillors and, since a recent promotion for reduced price training, we have received a number of enquiries and bookings.

The most recent session we delivered was on behalf of Tiverton Town Council who hosted the training for several neighbouring councils.  Feedback from the workshop, delivered by TRA presenter, Jed Griffiths, was very encouraging:

  • Met my expectations in full, even exceeded them! Anthony Buczkowski, Cullompton Town Council
  • Very informative and an update on present planning regulations.  Hilary Kirkcaldie, Axminster Town Council
  • It exceeded my expectations significantly.  I feel massively better prepared now to consider and discuss these issues. Funny too! Robert Corden, Tiverton Town Council
  • I enjoyed following the case study through the process.  Andrew Wyer, Tiverton Town Council
  • Very well put together and delivered. Very enjoyable. Tim Bridger, Tiverton Town Council
  • Good use of an interesting case study. Brian Watson, Axminster Town Council.

Many of our District council clients have been keen to organise this kind of training for their Town/Parish Councils with most of them running several repeat sessions.  Some feedback from these sessions can be viewed on our website.

The most popular option is our Briefing on Planning for Town and Parish Councils. Aimed at Councillors and Clerks, it is 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 is designed to run over a half-day with flexible timings in a morning, afternoon or evening. Concepts are applied to one or two case studies to reinforce key points, and it is delivered by one of our experienced Councillor presenters.

If you are interested in finding out more about this training (still at a reduced price!) then please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes for a detailed quotation.

As an aside, TRA has recently developed two NEW half-day training workshops specifically designed for community groups and Parish Councils who are keen to embark on the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan, but may be unsure of what is involved and how the process works.  If you would like more information on An Introduction to Neighbourhood Planning and/or Neighbourhood Plans: preparation and examination then please get in touch.


Neighbourhood Plans: independent examination service from TRA - 19/09/14

Neighbourhood Planning continues to gain momentum with more than 900 Neighbourhood Areas designated by LPAs so far. Around 130 Draft Plans have been published, nearly 80 have been submitted to the relevant LPA for publicity and examination, and 30 Plans have successfully passed a referendum.  At the same time,  DCLG has just completed a technical consultation on planning which included proposals to make neighbourhood planning quicker and easier in order to encourage more communities to follow suit.

Where communities take up their right to produce a Neighbourhood Plan (or Development Order), the LPA has a number of statutory duties to support the process, including making arrangements for the independent examination of the Plan before it can be put to a public referendum. 

The choice of 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.

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.


Looking at Sustainability and Viability in today's economic climate! - 16/09/14

The Autumn 2014 workshops are now underway both North and South of the border with some events being almost fully booked. Places are still available though on a number of workshops for those who have a little money left in the training budget!

In particular, we have a couple of workshops coming up which would be of benefit to planning and development professionals in both local authorities and the private sector, which delve into two particularly topical issues:

  • introducing new technologies and approaches to aid sustainable development whilst maintaining design integrity and viability
  • assessing the viability of development plans and individual developments.

Sustainable Development by Design - Edinburgh, 6 November 2014
This popular workshop looks at how local authorities, local communities and developers can best introduce new technologies and approaches to aid sustainable development, whilst at the same time maintaining the design integrity and viability of the development in question. The workshop will explore different technologies and design approaches to sustainability in the context of their environmental benefit and impact. The workshop will help to answer the conundrum of integrating good design with environmental principles, having regard to the current market and all the various pressures upon viability. The workshop will conclude with a look at the way in which careful design can help future-proof developments so that as new sustainable technologies come along, or become more affordable, they can be fully utilised without compromising the overall design.  This workshop is presented by Timothy Crawshaw, an innovative designer with over 20 years' experience in both the public and private sectors and a particular interest in sustainability.

Understanding Viability: key concepts in development economics for planners - Manchester, 18 November 2014
In the current economic situation the need to be able to understand a development’s viability has become an important issue for planners from all sectors of the profession. An understanding of viability can have a significant bearing on whether a development goes ahead and, if so, what benefits might accrue. This workshop is aimed at all planning and development professionals who need to judge the viability of development plans and projects. The workshop will be particularly relevant to public and private sector staff who assess and negotiate contributions under a planning agreement. Following the workshop, participants should be able to understand different approaches to financial appraisal; assess in broad terms the viability of proposals; and appreciate the financial impact of conditions and planning agreements under consideration. The workshop will also review the negotiation positions typically adopted by the parties to planning agreements.  Use will be made of basic financial models and there will be a review of the available software packages. This workshop is presented by Simon Rowberry, a public-sector-only management and support consultant with extensive experience in negotiating developer contributions on major housing, employment and retail sites.

Further details and booking forms can be found on the TRA website via the above links. If you are interested in attending but unable to make a firm booking straight away, provisional bookings can be made to reserve places by telephone on 01204 385678 or via our online provisional 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.


The Planning Admin Network (PAN) - open to everyone with an interest in Town Planning - 03/09/14

Whatever your role, if you are interested in the way in which the planning process is administered (in England, Scotland or Wales), then the Planning Admin Network (PAN) is likely to be a useful resource for you.

Originally set up in 2006 as a network for "Planning Administrators", PAN has evolved over time and its 791 strong membership now includes a large number of staff in other planning roles who are keen to keep up to date with developments and have access, via the Discussion Forum, to colleagues in other organisations who are facing similar issues.

One of the most useful features of the network is the PAN News page. It is packed with information, especially concerning changes to legislation etc, and interesting articles on a range of planning-related matters and is circulated on a monthly basis.

To access PAN News you need to be a member but it's FREE to join and only takes a minute to sign up online (see below). To give you an idea of the kind of things included in PAN News, you can download a PDF copy of the August and September 2014 issues now.

To find out more you can visit the PAN website. To join PAN now just click here. If you have any queries or comments please contact PAN Coordinator, Angela Holmes.


Certificated Enforcement course: note for students - 22/08/14

After 17 years, with more than 400 students taking part and 146 graduates having been awarded the certificate so far, TRA's Certificated Course in Planning Enforcement is still going strong and demand for places is as high as ever. Whilst this is really good news - especially for us! - it can make it difficult to ensure that students are able to attend the modules they want to, when they want to.

If you are already a student on this course you will have been in touch with Shelagh Pooley - who handles the course administration - at some stage. If you are interested in continuing with the programme, Shelagh would strongly recommend that you let her know which modules you would ideally like to attend. This won't commit you to any particular module but it will certainly help with her planning and make it more likely you'll get the place you want.

Shelagh can be contacted about bookings or any other information regarding the course as a whole by email or telephone on 01204 385678.


Essential skills and techniques for dealing with appeals - 18/08/14

TRA provides several training workshops to assist with some of the skills and techniques you might need if your work involves dealing with appeals. A number of these workshops are coming up over the next few months as part of our inter-authority programme:

An award of costs against you is unwelcome at the best of times (and especially in these days of limited resources) but they can be avoided through good practice. Our workshop analyses each stage from receipt of an application through to appeal (by written reps, hearing or inquiry), including Committee decisions, and considers what measures can be put in place at each stage to minimise the risks of a successful costs claim again you. It also looks at the circumstances in which you should pursue an application for costs against the other party.

  • Really helpful. More so because of the small group so there was plenty of discussion. Use of case studies very helpful. Jennifer Rehman, Lancaster City Council
  • It was useful having a small group as we could draw on each others' experiences. Martha Savage, Flintshire County Council

Being an Effective Witness is aimed at planning (and other technical) officers who may be called as an expert witness at an Inquiry but who have little or no previous experience. It is intended to promote a good understanding of the preparation required; what should be included in a witness statement; and how to give evidence in chief and under cross-examination. The workshop will provide participants with a solid grounding to improve their confidence, and thereby effectiveness, when giving evidence.

  • Lots of useful information provided on both legislation and in relation to the run up, and the day of the inquiry. Georgina Pacey, Runnymede Borough Council
  • "The workshop was very helpful and informative" Andrea Muscroft, Craven District Council.

Writing Effective Reports is full of good practice advice and tips from a very experienced practitioner and will be of particular value to relatively new or less experienced planners who want to sharpen their report-writing skills - whether they are preparing Committee Reports, delegated reports or appeal statements. It encourages participants to think about who they are writing for and the purpose of the report and considers what to leave in and what to cut out. It includes an insight into what Reporters are looking for and the way they currently approach "written subs" cases.

  • Informative, good presentation style and context.  Gave food for thought with good learning points. Thank you.  Morag Ferguson, Western Isles Council
  • The content of the course and experience of David provided an invaluable/unique learning opportunity for planners. This course/lecture would be extremely useful as part of a university module/course. Greg Shaw, Northampton Borough Council

Further information on each of these workshops can be found via the above links.

If you are interested in attending but are unable to make a firm booking straight away, places can be reserved provisionally by telephoning 01204 385678 or via our online provisional booking facility.