Latest News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aspects covered include:

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

Practical advice is given on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sessions assisted participants in developing:

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

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

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

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

Latest vacancies on TRA's Planning Jobs Board - 26/02/15

TRA's new Planning Jobs Board was successfully launched back in October. So far, we are averaging 12 new vacancies each week and usually have between 20 and 35 vacancies listed at any one time.

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

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

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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neighbourhood Plan Examination service - 19/02/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further information can be found on our website. If you are interested in receiving a quotation or have any additional questions you can contact Penny O'Shea on 01204 385678 or via without obligation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Programmes for 2015 now published! - 23/01/15

We are pleased to announce that the TRA 2015 Training Workshop Programmes for both England/Wales and Scotland are now available and can be viewed on our website:

The TRA Training Programmes provide a unique and comprehensive package of value for money workshops and update conferences. They are aimed at those working in the planning and development field in both the public and private sectors, including not only planning professionals but also technical and administrative support staff and planning enforcement staff. TRA Professional Workshops are based on our 30 years' experience in providing specialist training; they incorporate practical exercises and discussion as opposed to a straight forward “lecture” format and are led by expert presenters who are experienced practitioners rather than academics. Feedback from previous participants has been very positive and some of their comments can be viewed here.

Once again, both programmes see the introduction of a number of new workshops which will run alongside some of our more established and popular events. New topics being covered in 2015 are:


  • An Introduction to Appeals
  • Use of Conditions: necessary, precise and enforceable?
  • Engaging with Local Communities in Neighbourhood Plan Preparation


  • Understanding and Defining Development
  • The Basics of Planning Enforcement
  • The Use and Abuse of Planning Conditions and Section 75 Obligations
  • The Language of Urban Design

Detailed leaflets giving further information for most of the workshops in this year's programme are available to download from the TRA website and the remaining ones will be added very soon. Copies of our brochures which give details of the programme as a whole will soon be circulated to our mailing contacts as usual.

Bookings are invited on any of the events for 2015 and booking forms are available on the website. Our discounted block booking scheme remains in place for 2015. The scheme has proved very popular in recent years with authorities/organisations looking to gain better value for money wherever possible. Those wishing to take advantage of the scheme can earn up to 15% discount by booking 2 or more places at the same time (over any number of events in the programme). Block Booking forms giving further details are available to download from the website: England/Wales or Scotland

If you are unable to make a firm booking straight away but don't want to miss out, places can be reserved provisionally by telephoning 01204 385678 or via our online provisional bookings facility.

Examiner recommends Lincolnshire Neighbourhood Plans proceed to Referendum - 23/01/15

Examinations of two Neighbourhood Plans submitted to TRA by South Kesteven District Council were completed earlier this month. The Examiner, Colin Blundel, concluded that both Neighbourhood Plans (Stubton and Hough on the Hill Parish) meet the "basic conditions" and other legal tests required. He therefore recommended that, subject to some minor modifications, both Plans should proceed to a Referendum. South Kesteven will now consider the Examiner's reports and decide whether the Plans will proceed to this next stage.

The Neighbourhood Plan Examination service provided by TRA offers a competitive pricing structure and the excellent administrative backup and customer service for which TRA is well known. If you would like to know more about the service please visit the Neighbourhood Plan Examinations page of our website. If you are interested in receiving a quotation or have any additional questions you can contact Penny O'Shea on 01204 385678 or without obligation.

TRA awarded contract for Worcestershire training series - 23/01/15

In December 2014, following a successful tendering process, TRA was commissioned by the Worcestershire Planning Officers Group (WPOG) to prepare and deliver a programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training sessions aimed at district and county planning officers in Worcestershire.

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

The topics to be covered in the training programme include:

  1. National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG) overview
  2. Negotiation skills for planning officers
  3. Development of Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs)
  4. Landscape Planning
  5. Planning Law and Development Management Updates

The first two sessions have now been completed and were prepared and delivered by TRA presenter, Chris Weetman; the feedback from both sessions was very encouraging:

National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG) overview

  • Some interesting case law and emphasis on the importance of buying into the NPPF.  Angie Matthews, Wychavon DC
  • Met expectations, very interesting.  Helen Wills, Wyre Forest DC
  • Very informative, good to have lots of case law and a consultant’s perspective.  Rebecca Mayman, Wyre Forest DC
  • The trainer presented a dry topic with enthusiasm.  Sarah Matthews, Wychavon DC

Negotiation skills for planning officers

  • A very useful session and clear in delivery.  Rebecca Mayman, Wyre Forest DC
  • A good workshop and some interesting examples.  C Barker, Worcestershire CC
  • I felt I learnt a lot and will look forward to putting it into practice.  Emma Newfield, Redditch BC
  • Exceeded my expectations!  Julie Male, Bromsgrove DC
  • More than met my expectations.  I thought I would know a lot already but it was delivered in a way I hadn’t thought about in some aspects.  Elaine Godwin, Wychavon DC.

The remaining sessions in this series are now running one a month until April.  If you think authorities in your area might be interested in taking this approach and running a series of workshops for Officers and/or staff, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes with your requirements and to receive a ‘no obligation’ quotation.

TRA on Twitter - 20/01/15

We recently launched 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.

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

An early reminder - Post-election training for Councillors - 12/01/15

For some authorities in England, local Council elections are taking place on the 7th May. We would like to remind those of you who are considering providing planning training in the coming months about the importance of booking early to ensure that your Councillors don’t miss out on one of our extremely popular in-house training sessions.

Even for those Councillors who are relatively experienced in planning, training will be especially important in light of the constant changes to the way in which the planning system operates.  We have updated all of our Councillor workshops to reflect these changes, and what they mean with regards to a member’s role and responsibilities; so you can be assured that our workshop content is bang up to date.
We can respond to various training requirements, providing individual bespoke sessions as appropriate, but particularly popular in the post-election period are our one-day sessions:

  1. Briefing on Planning for Councillors (two presenters) – covering planning procedures and policies, and focusing especially on Development Management
  2. The Role of Councillors in Planning: propriety and good practice (two presenters) - covering issues such as conflicts and declarations of interest, material considerations, lobbying, and making the decision
  3. A Planning workshop for Councillors - NEW (one presenter) – this is a new session combining elements from both of the above workshops to give a broad overview of planning and a Councillors role.

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

Please note that during workshops 1 & 2 (above) a pre-prepared case study is used throughout the day to help highlight key points and give the training a stronger impact. Due to the way in which session 3 runs and the time constraints of the shorter workshops the opportunity for practical exercises is greatly reduced and so a case study cannot be used during these sessions.

The Training for Councillors section of our website provides further information and answers the most frequently asked questions. We generally ask for around 4-6 weeks to arrange Councillor training but will aim to accommodate clients wherever possible thanks to our large team of experienced presenters.

Please note that demand is very high in the period immediately after the elections and therefore we would highly recommend that you get in touch as soon as possible to fix your preferred date and avoid any disappointment. A number of authorities have already avoided the rush and booked their training days so available dates in May are now limited, although we shouldn’t have any problems in booking sessions for June onwards at this stage.

To receive a detailed quotation, please contact Angela Holmes without obligation. The prices that we quote are 'all-in' and therefore include all of our fees, presenter’s expenses and pre-course/course material. This means that there are no hidden extras and our clients are aware from the outset what they can expect to pay at the invoicing stage.

Don’t leave it until the last minute, contact us today!

Camden CIL Schedule approved by Examiner - 08/01/15

The first CIL Schedule submitted to TRA for examination has been approved by the Independent Examiner.

The London Borough of Camden submitted its Draft CIL Schedule to TRA on 28 August 2014 and appointed Terrence Kemmann-Lane as the Examiner. Following a Hearing held on 11 November 2014, the Examination was concluded on 16 December 2014 and the Examiner's Report recommended that the proposed charging schedule can be adopted in its published form without changes.

The intention is for the CIL Schedule and related documents to be reported to Camden's Cabinet on 24 February 2015 and the full Council on 3 March 2015 with a view to commencing CIL charging towards the end of March 2015. 

If you are interested in learning more about TRA's CIL Examination service visit our website for further information. You can also contact Penny O'Shea to find out more, including likely costs, without obligation.