Latest News

Brilliant start for our new Planning Jobs Board - 26/11/14

Just over a month ago, we launched our new Planning Jobs Board as part of the TRA website.  It is entirely free for authorities to advertise their vacancies and free to search for those looking for a new opportunity.  We decided to set up the Jobs Board as an additional service for our public sector clients and as a way of encouraging more people to visit our website.

The response has been great, with well over 60 vacancies listed on the Jobs Board in its first five weeks. Vacancies have covered roles in development management, enforcement, planning policy, conservation and design, and planning support.

New vacancies are being added all the time but here's a taster of current vacancies (with closing dates in December):

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 penny@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.


Bespoke training for Mole Valley Councillors to aid decision making - 17/11/14

Mole Valley District Council recently approached TRA to develop a short bespoke evening workshop for their Councillors entitled “The key elements of determining planning applications and planning enforcement”.

The aim of the session was to develop participants' understanding of the development management and enforcement elements of the planning process, in order to strengthen their decision making and improve the support and response they can provide to citizens.

The session, which was developed and delivered by Senior TRA Presenter, Vivien Green, covered the following:

  • what is development?
  • the concept of Permitted Development (PD) and how it works
  • the basis on which planning applications are refused/approved and in particular what are "material considerations" and the weight the decision maker should give to them
  • the use and reasons for conditions and valid reasons for refusing an application
  • what is a breach of planning control and the time limits for dealing with it
  • the importance of assessing “expediency” and “harm”
  • unique aspects of enforcement appeals.

The session appeared to be a hit with the Councillors as the feedback was very encouraging:

  • A very good use of my time!  Peter Stanyard
  • Excellent training, I wish I’d had this two years ago! Well planned and presented information.  Mary Cooper
  • Logical, clear, concise presentation full of examples to aid understanding.  Plenty of opportunity for questions.  The presenter was lively and managed to make a ‘dry’ subject accessible (and sometimes amusing too!)  By far the best planning training I’ve been to. Thank you for such a thorough grounding. Paula Hancock.

This workshop is now available to all of our in-house clients, so if you are interested in receiving more information on this session, or you have some particular requirements of your own, then please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes.


Aberdeenshire Officers learn about design for sustainable development - 17/11/14

Aberdeenshire Council recently commissioned TRA to deliver an in-house training workshop on ‘Sustainable Development by Design’.  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 explores different technologies and design approaches to sustainability in the context of their environmental benefit and impact.

The session was delivered by TRA presenter, Timothy Crawshaw, and was aimed at planners and urban designers who are involved in decision making and policy writing.

The workshop covered:

  • responses to climate, local character and learning from the past
  • low carbon technologies - their use and implications
  • micro generation options and economies of scale
  • design to reduce energy consumption
  • balancing heritage with future needs
  • a 'whole place' approach to sustainable design
  • SUDS and habitats
  • viability testing and balancing the issues
  • future-proofing developments.

Feedback from some of the participants was excellent:

  • Excellent presentation.  Good examples and the group work was very useful. Examples were explained easily and addressed all issues for an eco-house.  The retro-fitting of housing was really useful to see before and after pictures and see what can be achieved. Ann Gran
  • Masterplanning was helpful, especially for issues such as flooding and connectivity.  Pro-active way of learning through group exercises. Outlined the importance of SUDs etc. Jane Weir
  • Good, interesting presentation. I liked the use of real life examples. Victoria Moore
  • The variety of information on strategic and local level was interesting and allowed me to consider the whole picture of sustainability.  Fiona Oldroyd
  • The training was good. It got me thinking about connectivity, renewables and biodiversity. The masterplan exercise in the afternoon was enjoyable. Got you thinking about a whole site and how it connects, making for sustainable development.  Ruth Cuthbert.

If you are interested in learning more about running this workshop in-house and you would like to receive a no-obligation quotation, please contact Angela Holmes.  The prices we quote are ‘all-in’ and therefore include all of our fees, presenter’s expenses and pre-course/course material; this means there are no hidden extras so you know from the outset what you can expect to pay at the invoicing stage.


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.


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.


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.