Latest News

Forum on Enforcement - grab your place while you can - 25/07/14

This year's Forum on Enforcement will take place at our Manchester venue on Thursday 2 October. Early booking is particularly brisk and we are expecting it to be a popular programme so we'd suggest reserving your place as soon as possible.

Full details and a booking form can be found on our website.

The day will start with a Legal Update (always a popular session) given by Solicitor David Hainsworth LLB, FRSA, who has worked in both the public and private sectors and over the years has dealt with several hundred planning enforcement cases in various capacities.

There will be three parallel sessions from which you can choose to attend two:

  • Deliberate Concealment - Charles Allingham, Principal Planning Enforcement Officer, Welwyn Hatfield BC.
    Welwyn Hatfield broke new ground when they challenged the Secretary of State's decision on the Beesley case (dwellinghouse built to look like a barn) all the way to the Supreme Court and won. Charles will look at the range of options that the authority are now using for dealing with current cases of deliberate concealment, including invoking the Connor Principle, its effect on the ground (d) appeal and the planning enforcement order.
  • Dealing with Heritage Crime - Ian Marshall, Director, Environment and Heritage Solutions
    What is your Council doing to prevent and deal with heritage crime? How can it make the best use of scarce resources? Is it signed up to ARCH (Association to Reduce Crime against Heritage)?  With his wealth of experience in local government and in co-ordinating a Heritage Crime Partnership, Ian will look at the ways in which you can help to prevent, and when necessary deal effectively with, heritage crime.
  • Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in practice - Tim Rolt, Planning Enforcement Manager, London Borough of Brent
    Most enforcement practitioners are now familiar with the concept that POCA can be considered, following a successful prosecution, to confiscate the proceeds of a "planning crime". However, practical experience of using the power stills seems to be limited. The Planning Enforcement team in the London Borough of Brent, however, has had quite a lot of success in confiscating the proceeds of the crime and Tim will talk about their processes and experiences.

The final plenary session will be deliverd by Barrister David Armstrong from Mallard consultancy which is a member of the Unique Places Network, an association of acknowledged experts in the management of public sector regulation and the public realm. He is also a consultant and adviser to many public agencies including Keep Britain Tidy, Tidy Northern Irealnd and Keep Wales Tidy and has regularly advised local authorities in many forms of regulation and enforcement. He is therefore well placed to talk about using the recently enacted Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (many provisions of which also cover Wales) for dealing with common planning nuisance and enforcement problems.

The Forum will be chaired by Mike Hyde, Planning Consultant who delivers training on enforcement for TRA.


In-house training for Councillors on specific aspects of planning - 11/07/14

Our Councillor trainers have recently been extremely busy due to post-election demand.  It may be that your authority may not have had elections, or there could be a specific topic that you feel your Members might benefit from receiving training on; if this is the case, TRA can help.
 
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. 

We are able to conduct detailed sessions on specific aspects of planning, 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 currently offer are:

  • a briefing on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
  • a briefing on Neighbourhood Planning (NEW)
  • good practice for DM/planning Committees (NEW)
  • planning enforcement
  • advertisement control
  • planning appeals: the Councillor dimension
  • avoiding costs awards at appeal (NEW)
  • planning obligations and planning conditions
  • trees and the planning process (NEW).

These sessions are delivered by our experienced team of presenters, all of whom are planning practitioners, as opposed to academics.

This is just a small selection of the sessions that we can run; 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 a particular in-house training session, including an outline programme, then please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes directly, for a no-obligation quotation.  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.


Western Isles Council - getting the most out of training for Members and Officers - 04/07/14

Here at TRA we have been on our travels again, this time to the Western Isles having been commissioned by the Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) to deliver a short bespoke training session for their members.  In addition, they also decided to utilise the presenter’s time in Stornoway to their advantage by organising a second half day course for their officers on Report Writing Skills.

The first part of the day was devoted to the officers and the Report Writing session.  The main objectives of the session were to:

  • provide a refresher on “material considerations” and an opportunity to discuss any grey areas (whether for officers, elected members or the wider public)
  • 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 (and why)
  • show how a good report (whether for Committee or delegated) can greatly simplify the handling of straightforward appeals
  • give an insight into what Reporters are looking for, and the way they currently approach  “written reps” cases
  • take a brief look at some recent appeal decisions.

In the afternoon the focus was on the Members with an opportunity for participants to discuss current issues in relation to the determination of planning applications. The training covered:

  • the purpose of the planning system in Scotland and the role of councillors within it
  • engagement with the public (including prospective developers)
  • the key factors to be borne in mind when making decisions (including a refresher on what is – and what is not – a “material consideration” in planning matters)
  • committee overturns and
  • the principles of the appeal system.

Both sessions were prepared and delivered by TRA Senior Associate, David Kaiserman, and feedback from the training was encouraging:

Development Management workshop for Members

  • I really enjoyed it! Uisdean Robertson
  • Very informative. Neil MacDonald Beaton
  • Excellent workshop. Norman Macdonald

Report Writing for Officers

  • Informative, good presentation style and context.  Gave food for thought with good learning points. Thank you – I hope you can come back again sometime!  Morag Ferguson
  • Very useful and informative. I learned a lot and I will use some of the material in my planning course assignment. A very down to earth and practical approach. Susan Ratie
  • Very good. Sensible recommendations for layout and actually required information within reports.  Mary Davidson
  • Really clear and concise. Very interactive and not patronising.  Helen MacDonald.

This approach to delivering training, by offering two half day workshops for different audiences, can work out to be very cost effective but it does depend on the ‘specialism’ of the presenter involved.    If you think that your authority would benefit from having training delivered in this way please get in touch with Angela Holmes to discuss the options available.


Now format for Support Staff Conference proves popular - 24/06/14

The annual TRA Conference for Support Staff took place in London on the 19 June. It was again well attended with over 50 delegates from a range of local planning authorities from as far afield as Gloucestershire and Lincolnshire.
 
In a change to the previous format, the day revolved around two longer sessions offering detailed discussion on ‘key changes to legislation’ and ‘customer care’ and was topped off with a final presentation looking at some practice issues and pitfalls for support staff, particularly around the National Planning Practice Guidance.
 
In the session on legislative changes, Vivien Green gave delegates an opportunity to consider some of the key changes that have recently been introduced - or will shortly be introduced - and the implications these will have for support staff. As always, Vivien provided lots of useful information and analysis which gave delegates plenty of food for thought on how the changes are affecting planning overall and the day-to-day work of support staff. As well as looking at the changes in primary legislation the session looked at issues around permitted development and the increasing use of the prior notification procedure.
 
Elsewhere, Lee Prebble explored some customer care issues in a session sub-titled ‘the art of the possible’. It was an opportunity to revisit some of the different approaches to customer care and communication with a view to achieving positive outcomes. Lee took delegates through a range of approaches and issues in dealing with people face-to-face as well as on the telephone and in writing. And, of course, no session on customer care is complete without looking at some of the ‘deadly sins’ that are all too easy to commit.
 
A short Q&A session followed giving delegates the chance to raise any questions from either of the earlier sessions or more generally on the work of support staff. The day then finished with a look at some of the practice issues support staff face, particularly in using the new NPPG. The session highlighted a number of discrepancies and potential pitfalls between the NPPG and actual legislation, including some key omissions in the guidance. Viven Green also provided delegates with some useful reminders about local validation requirements and a look at what’s likely to be next on the planning reform conveyor belt.
 
In a day that was quite intensive at times, the conference offered plenty of opportunity for interaction and discussion with the speakers and, equally importantly, with colleagues from other authorities. As always, this provided plenty of insight into how other authorities are doing things and how they are adapting (or not!) to the new challenges.

Comments from some of the delegates included:

  • "Legislation update useful and informative. Able to take some changes back to my LPA that have not been flagged up by officers. Many of the issues raised by other participants were common - good to know that we are all facing the same challenges" Sue Ludwig, Borough of Poole
  • "New guidance and legislation was interesting and informative. Customer care was a good reminder of how you can make the client feel. It was very interesting how different LPA's operate from the first point of contact, the availablility of Planning Officers and the actual technology used" Lynne Knight, Basildon Borough Council
  • "Knowledgeable, professional speakers in a relaxed atmosphere" Elizabeth Goode, St Albans District Council

We are keen to ensure that the conference covers topics of interest and relevance to support staff so if there are any topics that you’d like us to consider including in next year’s event then please feel free to email us with your ideas and suggestions at promotion@tra-ltd.co.uk


TRA introduce more new workshops to training programmes - 20/06/14

As mentioned in previous issues of Enews, we have introduced a number of new workshops into the TRA Training Programmes recently to keep them fresh and topical. There are a couple more coming up this Autumn in our England & Wales programme which may be of interest to you or colleagues within your department. Both of these workshops will take place at our London venue, The Wesley.

Avoiding Cost Awards at Appeal - 23 September 2014
There is an increasing tendency for both appellants and Councils to make an application for costs on appeal.  An award of costs against you is unwelcome at the best of times, and particularly in these days of limited resources, but they can be avoided through good practice. By examining a variety of scenarios, this workshop analyses each stage from receipt of an application through to appeal (by Written Representation, Hearing or Public Inquiry), including Committee decisions. It considers what measures can be put in place to minimise the risks of a successful costs claims against you and in what circumstances you should pursue an application for costs against the other party.  The workshop is appropriate for all those involved in Development Management, including both Council officers and planning advisors to appellants and third parties.

The workshop was introduced last year and is presented by Sue Glover, a freelance Chartered Town Planner who has worked extensively in the private and public sectors. As a Senior Associate of TRA, Sue has worked throughout England, Wales and Scotland presenting workshops for Councillors and Officers and undertaking procedural reviews of development management processes.

Comments of participants who attended last year's workshop include:

  • "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

Basic Tree Hazard Assessment and Tree Preservation Orders - 21 October 2014
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.

This workshop is brand new for 2014 and is presented by Paul Allen, Planning and Development Manager with environmental consultancy Marishal Thompson. Paul has undertaken many thousands of tree surveys and inspections, written Tree Hazard Risk Assessments and policies, and provided advice to large public and private estates in respect of their tree hazard management.

Comments of participants who attended this workshop in Scotland earlier this year include:

  • "Very informative and engaging presentation. Outlined and clarified some issues which will be helpful in my work"  Neil McAteer, North Ayrshire Council
  • "Information was good and useful"  Emma Williams, Aberdeenshire Council

Further information and booking forms are available on the TRA website via the above links to the relevant workshop. If you are interested in attending but are unable to make a firm booking straight away, places can be reserved provisionally by telephone on 01204 385678 or via our online provisional booking facility.


Introducing a new workshop for Councillors in planning - 18/06/14

TRA is the UK’s leading provider of practitioner-presented training and this year sees the 20th anniversary of delivering in-house training for elected Members.  During this time TRA has successfully delivered in-house training sessions for thousands of Councillors in over 220 authorities across England, Wales and Scotland; view a full list of clients in England/Wales and Scotland.

We understand that training needs and the resources available for training (both in terms of time and money) vary between authorities and so we are keen to offer a variety of formats to make our training accessible to all. As well as our popular ‘tried and tested’ one-day sessions for Councillors (A Briefing on Planning and The Role of Councillors in Planning) TRA is now able to offer a NEW one-day session combining elements of BOTH of these workshops giving Members a broader view of the basics of planning and their role within it. The training is presented in an interactive “workshop” format by one member of our presenting team and in line with our overall approach to training, includes as much practical work and discussion as possible.

Both Rushmoor Borough Council and Cambridge City Council recently took this approach and both sessions were delivered by TRA presenter, Jed Griffiths, resulting in excellent feedback:

  • Gave me a good insight on how decision making affects Ward Councillors, what their roles are, how they have to conduct themselves and the procedures they have to follow.  The presentation was well presented with a good sense of humour throughout.  Very clear and precise.  Wendy Betteridge, Rushmoor BC
  • The presenter made the course enjoyable.  I would appreciate more training that may help me as a Councillor.  Clive Grattan, Rushmoor BC
  • Covered a wide range of subjects all of which were relevant for Members engaged in planning.  Roland Dibbs, Rushmoor BC
  • A broad coverage of present planning policies and procedures was given effectively with a well balanced and important emphasis on probity in the planning process.  Kevin Blencowe, Cambridge CC
  • A good level of detail and sign-posting to sources of information etc. The presenter was clearly highly experienced and this came through very well and is very reassuring for new Councillors.  Nick Auciy, Cambridge CC
  • Very informative, especially with reference to various websites that might assist in the future.  Information was explained in plain language and the use of past cases was very helpful.  The presenter delivered the training with an element of humour (always a good tool in learning).  Nigel Gawthrope, Cambridge CC.

Where time constraints are particularly tight, we can also offer shorter training sessions (usually 3 hours) in either a morning, afternoon or evening to suit an authority’s requirements.  This can be the perfect solution if a one-day workshop is not a viable option. The half-day sessions are essentially shortened down versions of the one-day Briefing and Role workshops and therefore some elements are necessarily condensed to accommodate the time available. The shorter workshops are delivered by one member of our experienced presenting team and do not include case studies/exercises due to the limited time available.

So now there are even more options for organising training for your members in planning:

  • A one-day Briefing on Planning or Role of Councillors session, delivered by two presenters (providing a wealth of experience) using a full-case study to help reinforce key areas
  • A one-day combined Briefing on Planning and Role of Councillors session, delivered by one presenter using a condensed case study and short exercises to help highlight key points
  • A shorter half-day session (3 hours) on either the Briefing on Planning OR the Role of Councillors, delivered by one presenter (please note that due to time constraints a case study and/or exercises cannot be used).

To see more information on the training we can deliver for Members, please visit the Councillor page on our website which answers the most frequently asked questions.

To receive a quotation or to obtain further information about a particular session, such as an outline programme, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes.  Please note that the prices we quote are ‘all-in’ and so include all of our fees, presenter expenses and pre-course/course material, so there are no hidden extras and our clients are aware of what they can expect to pay at invoicing stage.  


The Yorkshire Dales NPA help their Planners to polish up their presenting skills - 03/06/14

Planners, and particularly middle-tier managers, often find themselves thrust into the spotlight by having to make presentations to Planning Committees, Area Committees, pressure groups, other stakeholders etc. These presentations often represent "make or break" occasions and how they go can have a significant impact on the quality of the outcome being sought. However, it is still unusual to find that those presenting have had any formal training in presentation skills.

It is with this in mind that TRA were recently commissioned to deliver an in-house training workshop on behalf of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and staff from neighbouring authorities, entitled Presentation Skills for Planners.

This interactive workshop helped to raise participants' awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses and provided some tried and tested tips and techniques to help them get their message across.

The session was developed and delivered by TRA Presenter, Chris Weetman, and the feedback from the participants was excellent:

  • Was really pleased that the session was tailored to planning/committee situations as this type of presentation is different to very general ones.  It was good that the presenter had a planning background.  Andrea Burden, Yorkshire Dales NPA
  • It was refreshing to attend a workshop where I actually felt that I was learning and that the presenter wanted to inform, advise and educate me rather than the usual workshops run by other organisations where there is a definite sense that I am being preached to or that the speaker has a particular agenda or is even sometimes promoting themselves. Once again this TRA course exceeded my expectations and presents a well presented, informative, interesting and frankly excellent workshop where I have come away feeling that I have actually gained from the day and am all the better for it.  Simon Chapman, Yorkshire Dales NPA
  • I felt it was highly tailored to meet our needs and was specific to planning.  Putting me on the spot was definitely good practice for speaking in public in a ‘safe’ environment.  Katherine Wood, Yorkshire Dales NPA
  • I learnt a lot from doing the presentation and getting feedback.  The workshop introduced methods and ideas not previously considered which I will hopefully work at and take into the future.  The relaxed atmosphere was also good making it a safe environment to make mistakes with an approachable course leader. Nicola Dinsdal, Yorkshire Dales NPA
  • Good, interesting and involving presentations, providing useful tips and techniques to improve presentation styles.  It was particularly useful that the course presenter was himself an experienced planner with direct knowledge of the subject as a specialist.  R. Bissicks, Yorkshire Dales NPA
  • The workshop achieved a good balance of practical and theoretical elements.  It provided a good range of helpful hints and tips to consider when preparing presentations together with advice in relation to coping with various situations that may arise during the delivery of presentations. Helen Webster, North York Moors NPA

If you would like to receive more information on this course, such as an outline programme, then please contact Angela Holmes who can provide you with a detailed quotation.

Please remember that the prices we quote are ‘all-in’ so there are no hidden extras and our clients are aware from the outset what they can expect to pay at the invoicing stage.


Looking to appoint an Examiner for Neighbourhood Plans? - 30/05/14

If you work in local authority planning the chances are that your authority is already involved – at least to some extent – in supporting your local communities with neighbourhood planning. According to DCLG, more than half of all LPAs in England have received applications to designate one or more Neighbourhood Areas and 630 had been successfully designated by the end of 2013. Although less than 10% of Neighbourhood Areas have published a Draft Plan so far, neighbourhood planning is clearly gaining momentum and a lot more Plans are expected to come through this year.

An LPA has a number of statutory duties to support neighbourhood planning in their area, including making arrangements for the independent examination of a Plan before it can be put to a referendum.  The LPA can choose who to appoint to examine the Plan (with the agreement of the Parish Council or Neighbourhood Forum) provided that the Examiner:

  • 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.

Having provided support for the planning service for many years and, being independent of both local and central government, Trevor Roberts Associates is ideally placed to offer appropriately qualified and experienced Independent Examiners. Our Examiners are all 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.

Please see our website for further information on TRA's Neighbourhood Plan Examinations service.


Certificated Enforcement course: next chance to attend introductory module - 28/05/14

The "introductory" module in TRA's Certificated Course in Planning Enforcement will be running in October and November and there are a few places remaining. Offering an ideal opportunity for new students to join this popular programme, the module won't be running again for another 12 months so you need to get in touch soon if you would like to attend.

The certificated course programme is modular - consisting of 5 modules - and although it is not essential to attend the Key Principles of Planning and Enforcement module first, we recommend it wherever possible since it provides a valuable grounding for the other modules.

The Key Principles module will take place at Madingley Hall, Cambridge on 8-9 October and 25-26 November 2014. It provides an excellent introduction to enforcement, ideally suited to staff new to enforcement, whether qualified or not, who need to learn quickly in order to get on with the job. It is also of great benefit to established enforcement staff who may not previously have had much specific training, giving them a good framework for their practical experience. Full details of this module and what it covers, and of the enforcement programme as a whole, can be found on our website.

Below are some comments from people who have attended the Key Principles module and you can also see comments from previous students on the enforcement programme as a whole on our website.

  • Anyone debating whether to do this course, or not sure it's right for them - don't hesitate, sign up, you will have no regrets. The information "on tap" from the Tutor is second to none and will be a benefit to all in this line of work. Tim Peachey, States of Guernsey.
  • An excellent approach to learning which fits in very well with full-time work whilst retaining a work/life balance. Exceptional course delivery by Vivien in a comfortable learning environment. Very impressed - will continue to next module and recommend to others. Stephanie Waldron, Watford BC.
  • Having worked in enforcement for over 4 years, I went with a certain knowledge to the course. However, I was surprised how much I did not know! The information was relevant and the presentation easily understood. I entered the course with a little trepidation but left feeling encouraged and better informed. Justine Warner, Melton BC.
  • As I have only been an enforcement officer for 8 months, this was a good module to start with as I have been able to build on what I have learned. Carmel Driscoll, Mid Suffolk DC.

For further information or to reserve your place on the October/November 2014 module please contact Shelagh Pooley as soon as possible.

Also running in October/November is the module on Planning Enforcement and Operational Development (10-11 Oct & 27-28 Nov 2014). This module is provisionally fully booked at the moment but it is possible that some bookings may not be confirmed so if you are interested in attending please let Shelagh know and she will keep your name on the waiting list.


Workshops coming up in Scotland this Autumn - 23/05/14

Our training workshop programme for Scotland got off to a flying start earlier this month with two popular workshops taking place in Edinburgh. Looking ahead to later in the programme, we have a batch of workshops (including one brand new one aimed at Planning Support Staff) coming up at the Novotel Hotel, Glasgow on 16 September 2014.

  • Negotiation Skills: the key to achieving planning goals and objectives (also in Manchester on 24 June)
    Almost every day, planning, enforcement and other ‘environmental’ staff within local planning authorities engage in some form of negotiation. Often these negotiations, whether they are with developers, agents, the public or even their colleagues, are carried out without any clear understanding of the principles and techniques involved. Yet having an awareness of both principles and techniques, coupled with experience, can make a formidable difference to an officer’s effectiveness.  This workshop focuses on persuasion and influencing skills; when to negotiate and when not to; approaches to negotiation; “tricks” and techniques; power and the personality dimensions. The workshop combines theories with working references from the experience of participants.
  • Harnessing the Potential of Support Staff: an essential step towards improved planning performance (NEW FOR 2014)
    Performance improvement is high on the agenda for all planning authorities, and Development Managers constantly need to be looking for ways to make their service both more effective and efficient, often with diminishing resources.  One key staff resource that is often over-looked or under-utilised is the contribution that can be made by knowledgeable and well-trained technical and support staff. This brand new, practice-based workshop for key technical and support staff aims to help them develop their roles and responsibilities in crucial areas of development management by both increasing their knowledge-base and boosting their confidence in their abilities. It focuses on the practical issues of reading plans and validating applications, and determining publicity, notifications and consultations for all the different types of planning as well as advertisement and listed building consent applications. It will employ a variety of techniques but the emphasis will be on working through practical examples. Group working will offer an opportunity to network and compare processes in other authorities.
  • Advertisement Control
    Advertisement control is an increasingly important yet often misunderstood part of the planning regime. The present Scottish Advertisement Regulations came into force in 1984 and have remained substantially unaltered. This workshop provides a clear insight into the complexities of the Regulations using real life examples at each stage. The workshop will be of benefit to development management, enforcement and support officers. Specific aspects covered include: what is an advertisement; advertisements not covered by the Regulations; deemed and express consents; Areas of Special Control; advertisement enforcement and flyposting.

Bookings can be made using the booking form available from the TRA website via the above links to the relevant event (or the discounted block booking form if you wish to book 2 or more places). Alternatively, places can be reserved provisionally by telephone on 01204 385678 or via the online provisional booking facility

Please note the last few places are still up for grabs on the two workshops due to take place at Jurys Inn, Glasgow on 3 June 2014, however immediate booking is recommended to secure a place: