Latest News

Need to get up to speed on recent changes to PD and DM procedures? - 30/04/15

If you work in planning support you will hopefully be aware that the government introduced changes earlier this month to Permitted Development and Development Management procedures.  But do you know what you need to do about them?

The new Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 came into effect on 15 April. It consolidates the regulations concerning Permitted Development in England and introduces a number of policy changes. 

A new consolidated Development Management Procedure Order (DMPO) also came into effect on 15 April. Although the new order doesn't introduce any major changes it does bring in some minor amendments and re-arrangement/re-numbering of Articles and Schedules which LPAs should be acting on.

TRA's forthcoming workshops on Effective Validation (Manchester, 20 May) and Supporting the Processing of Planning Applications (London, 16 June) have been updated to take account of these changes, particularly with regard to the increased number of Prior Notification categories of development, and will provide an opportunity to get up to speed. There are places available on both workshops but the June event is almost fully booked. Full details of both workshops can be found via the above links. 

Our workshop on Permitted Development is not running until October (in Manchester) but in the interim we can provide in-house training for individual authorities - or groups of authorities - to help staff get to grips with PD and the recent changes and what action they need to take. If this idea is of interest please contact Angela Holmes for further details. 


Latest vacancies on Planning Jobs Board - 30/04/15

Here are some of the current vacancies on our Planning Jobs Board (with closing dates in May):

Advertising on our Jobs Board is entirely free to local authorities handling their own recruitment (unfortunately we can't offer it to recruitment agencies). We are keen to include planning roles of all types including those in planning support and planning enforcement. If you would like to advertise a vacancy you can download our 1-page pdf which provides more information. Alternatively, you can simply send your text and the authority's logo (if you would like this to be included) to jobsboard@tra-ltd.co.uk. The Jobs Board is fully managed by TRA's staff in Bolton to ensure that the whole process of advertising is as quick and hassle-free as possible.

It is also free to search for those looking for a new opportunity. So if you are in the market for a new challenge, visit TRA’s Planning Jobs Board regularly – it could change your life! And please - if you do apply for one of these vacancies we'd be really grateful if you could mention that you saw it on the TRA Planning Jobs Board.


Workshops on Enforcement and Customer Care in Edinburgh - 30/04/15

The next two workshops in our 2015 Scotland programme will take place in Edinburgh on 9 June and places are still available.

The Basics of Planning Enforcement (Brand new for 2015)

The credibility of the planning system is increasingly reliant on effective enforcement of planning control. This workshop is aimed at planning staff who are either directly involved in enforcement work or who wish to have a contextual understanding of the system, as well as relatively new or less experienced enforcement staff. Specific aspects covered include: what can be enforced - the definition of development and what constitutes unauthorised development; the immunity rules; how to deal with complaints; evidence collection; the effective use of the enforcement toolkit; and practical steps to make enforcement more efficient and effective.

Managing the Planning Customer's Experience 

In an increasingly demanding world - where users expect excellent service at minimum cost - the provision of a quality, customer-oriented planning service can go a long way towards achieving the quality outcomes local authorities are striving for.  This one-day interactive workshop provides planners and technical/support staff with an understanding of why customer care matters now more than ever and how to deliver good customer service at little or no extra cost in terms of time or money.  It explores what good customer care actually means and why it matters, the importance of listening skills and communicating clearly, handling complaints and understanding and preventing conflict, and concludes with action points for achieving positive outcomes. There are many courses on customer care but the benefit of this one is that it is designed and delivered by a planner who understands the competing demands within local government planning and the sorts of issues participants will be facing on a daily basis.

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

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


Post election training for Councillors: A final reminder before Election Day! - 20/04/15

For many authorities local Council elections are literally just around the corner.  We would like to remind those of you who are considering providing planning training in the coming months about the importance of booking dates as soon as possible; this will ensure that your Councillors don’t miss out on one of our extremely popular in-house training sessions.

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. A 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 Councillor’s 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 Role of Councillors one-day workshops and are delivered by one presenter.

Please note that during workshops 1 & 2 (above) pre-prepared case studies/exercises are used throughout the day to help highlight key points and help to 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.

Below you can see some participant feedback from previous Councillor in-house workshops:

  • As a new Councillor I thought this was an excellent introduction to the Role of Councillors in Planning. It addressed not only issues and good practice associated with the Councillor’s role but by necessity addressing and commenting on key aspects of the planning system.  Commentary on changes introduced by the new Localism legislation was particularly welcome. Cllr Gregory Harlock, Huntingdonshire District Council
  • The whole thing was professionally delivered as usual – the right balance of humour and realism.  Still brings home the fact that no matter how often I preach, information delivered by external trainers delivers the ‘light bulb’ moment. Fiona Edwards, Development Planning Manager, Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Exceeded expectations, mostly due to the knowledge of the presenters and the methods used which made the delegates work together effectively.  Cllr Stephen Haroldsen, Copeland Borough Council
  • More than met my expectations and should be made compulsory for all Councillors. All Councillors would benefit from this training – it would help them understand the reasons behind decisions. Cllr Angela Glass. East Hampshire District Council.

The Training for Councillors section of our website provides some further information and answers the most frequently asked questions. We generally ask for around 4-6 weeks notice to arrange Councillor training but will aim to accommodate clients wherever possible thanks to our large team of experienced presenters. Please note that many authorities have already avoided the rush and booked their training days so May is now fully booked – however, we should still be able to accommodate dates in June and July at this stage. Don’t leave it until the last minute, contact us today to secure your training date!

To see an outline programme without obligation, or to arrange a booking please contact Angela Holmes.


Don't forget to book for our Support Staff conference - 19/04/15

Just a quick reminder that our latest Conference for Planning Support Staff is just 8 weeks away. If you would like to attend we recommend that you book your place soon.  

The Conference will take place at The Wesley in London on 25 June and represents a valuable opportunity to meet with colleagues from other authorities and learn about current best practice and future developments affecting planning support.

As always, the event involves a mixture of general presentations and smaller group sessions in which participants can discuss topics in more detail. The contributors and topics under discussion will be:

VIVIEN GREEN, Planning Consultant and TRA Senior Associate - 10 things you should be doing but probably aren't....

NICOLA HAMILTON, Enforcement Team Leader at St Helens Council - Handling difficult customers - lessons learned from enforcement

KARL ROBERTS, Assistant Director of Planning Services at Arun District Council - How localism may affect support staff

CHRIS WEETMAN, independent planning consultant and TRA Associate - Delivering services in times of austerity

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

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

Further details for the conference and a booking form are available 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 the online provisional booking facility.


Tailored training solutions for Support Staff - 06/04/15

TRA appreciates that administrative support staff play a vital role in the delivery of the planning service and to be fully effective they need to be properly trained. TRA has specialised in providing in-house training tailored to the needs of this key staff group for many years; some previous participant feedback is available on our website.

Organising a workshop on an in-house basis represents a unique opportunity to have training which matches the requirements of the staff and the authority, delivered in a way which is cost effective and convenient – an important consideration when training budgets are stretched, as is currently the case in many authorities.

Some examples of the workshops available are:

  • The Basics of Planning
  • Permitted Development
  • The Essential Elements of Support for Planning and Listed Building Control
  • Supporting the Processing of Planning Applications: a workshop for experienced technical and administrative staff 
  • An Introduction to the Key Elements of Planning Enforcement
  • Workshops on Validation.

More details, including a full list of the workshops on offer is available on our website.

Please note that we are also happy to consider designing bespoke sessions, or tailoring existing sessions to a client’s individual needs. One recent example of the latter is the London Borough of Bromley Council who ran Effective Validation. The training was tailored to take into account their specific Validation processes and the main aim was to assist them in developing ideas for improvement, especially with regards to Fees.  It proved to be a particularly useful day as participant comments show:

  • The training was very informative, I’ve learned quite a lot and now have a better understanding of fees.
  • Gave a lot more clarity on fees and what to check for when validating.
  • The presenter was very informative and interesting.
  • Very detailed and a good starting point.

If you are interested in a particular workshop and would like to tailor it to your specific requirements, then please do not hesitate to ask. Alternatively if you would like any further information on our range of standard training sessions for support staff, including an outline programme, then please feel free to contact Angela Holmes for a no-commitment quotation.


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

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

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

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

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

If, on the other hand, you would like to advertise a vacancy on our Jobs Board you can download our 1-page pdf which provides more information. Alternatively, you can simply send your text and the authority's logo (if you would like this to be included) to jobsboard@tra-ltd.co.uk. The Jobs Board is fully managed by TRA's staff in Bolton to ensure that the whole process of advertising is as quick and hassle-free as possible.


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

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

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

In terms of progress by the remaining authorities:

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

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


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

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

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

The main objectives of the session were to:

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

Feedback from the attendees was very encouraging:

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

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


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

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

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

The main course objectives were to help attendees:

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

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

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

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