Latest News

Season's Greetings - 16/12/14

Hough on the Hill Neighbourhood Plan submitted for examination - 16/12/14

The latest neighbourhood plan submitted to TRA for examination is the Hough on the Hill Parish Neighbourhood Plan. The plan was submitted by South Kesteven District Council at the beginning of December and has been allocated to TRA Associate Colin Blundel for examination. Colin is also undertaking the examination of another plan in the same district (Stubton).

The Neighbourhood Plan Examination service from 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 Examination 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.

2015 Training Workshop Programmes almost ready! - 15/12/14

The TRA Programmes of Professional Workshops are currently being finalised and will be posted on the website and circulated to our mailing contacts very soon.

If you would like to sign up to receive details you can subscribe to our mailing list here.

As always, the programmes feature many of our previously popular events, plus a selection of new topics being developed for 2015 which will include:

Scotland programme

  • Understanding and Defining Development
  • The Basics of Enforcement
  • Conditions and Section 75 Obligations
  • Urban Design

England/Wales programme

  • An Introduction to Appeals
  • Conditions (looking at writing, discharging and enforcement)

Our block booking system will remain in place for 2015 offering discounts of up to 15% for bookings of 2 or more places made at the same time - an excellent opportunity to sort out all your training needs for 2015 in one go and stretch the training budget that little bit further!

Christmas and New Year holidays - 12/12/14

The TRA office will close at 5pm on Tuesday 23 December and re-open at 9am on Monday 5 January.

Latest vacancies on TRA's Planning Jobs Board - 12/12/14

The response to our new Planning Jobs Board has been really encouraging with an average of 12 new vacancies being added each week. Vacancies so far have covered roles in development management, enforcement, planning policy, conservation and design, and planning support.

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.

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

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.

Getting the best from your Support Staff - 09/12/14

TRA knows that Administrative and Support Staff play a vital role in the delivery of the planning service and to be fully effective they need to be properly trained. Training budgets may be tight, but neglecting training often proves to be short-sighted. It is precisely in times like these when you really need your key resources – i.e. your staff – to be working both effectively and efficiently.  TRA has specialised in providing training tailored to the needs of this key staff group for many years.

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 both cost effective and convenient.

Some recent workshops for support staff were delivered by TRA Senior Presenter, Vivien Green, at Woking, South Derbyshire and South Oxfordshire and participant feedback from all of the sessions was very positive:

Woking – Effective Validation

  • It gave an overall insight of why/what is required to validate applications. The presenter was extremely thorough and explained things very well. She has given me the confidence to start validating.  All of the slides shown were very informative. Christine Duplock
  • Very good, very clear, easy to understand and digest. Frances Dalquen
  • The presenter effectively tailored the course specifically to our requirements to train Business Support Staff on Validation to assist with our program of moving this function from case officers.  Dan Freeland.

South Derbyshire – The Basics of Planning

  • Gave a good basic knowledge of the planning system in user friendly language that I could understand! (I am not a planner!) Vicky Smyth
  • The session had a lot more content that I expected. The history was really interesting. The presenter was very thorough and knowledgeable. It gave me a good overview and some understanding of the planning system.  Thank you!  Sharon Dixon
  • The workshop covered the planning process from start to finish including the history of planning.  It was very useful to me. Lorraine Brewster.

South Oxfordshire – Permitted Development

  • The training workshop more than met my expectations – thank you! Tim Small
  • The session was very helpful in setting out the basics of Permitted Development and it was great to get answers that were clear and concise.  Hannah Kruger.

A full list of the in-house workshops on offer for Support Staff can be viewed on our website, which also includes some feedback from previous participants. Please note that we are happy to consider designing bespoke sessions, or tailoring existing sessions to meet the needs of an individual client, so if you have any specific requirements please let us know.

If you do not have enough staff to make in-house training financially viable, you may want to consider joint in-house training, with staff from neighbouring authorities. Many of our clients now deliver training in this way, not only to maximise cost effectiveness but many find that their staff benefit immensely from being in an environment where they can share local knowledge and experience with staff from neighbouring authorities.

If you are interested in receiving a detailed no-obligation quotation for any of our support staff sessions, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes.


Focused training for Councillors on specific aspects of planning - 08/12/14

Trevor Roberts Associates (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 currently offer include:

  • avoiding cost awards at appeal (NEW)
  • planning enforcement
  • good practice for DM/planning committees (NEW)
  • a briefing on Neighbourhood Planning
  • trees and the planning process (NEW)

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 invoicing stage from the outset.

Stubton Neighbourhood Plan submitted to TRA for examination - 28/11/14

Earlier this month TRA received the Stubton Neighbourhood Plan for examination. The Plan, prepared by Stubton Parish Council, was submitted by South Kesteven District Council and has been allocated to TRA Associate Colin Blundel for examination. We are also awaiting the submission of a second Neighbourhood Plan by South Kesteven in the next couple of weeks.

The Neighbourhood Plan Examination service from 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 Examination 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.

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 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.

Last few places on Advertisement Control module! - 25/11/14

The next two modules are due to begin early in the New Year as part of TRA's Certificated Programme in Planning Enforcement.  One of the modules is now fully booked, however there are a small number of places still remaining on the other module should you wish to reserve a place:

Planning Enforcement and Advertisement Control - 14-15 January and 25-26 February 2015.

Advertisement control is a particularly complex area for enforcement. Staff involved need to have a thorough grasp of the statutory, regulatory, policy and practical issues involved and the procedural steps required to ensure that appropriate enforcement action can be taken and substantiated. Some of the areas covered in the module include: legislation relating to advertising; definition of what is an advertisement; enforcement powers and when it is expedient to use them; prosecutions relating to advertisements; and consideration of proactive approaches to advertisement control.  Further details (and a booking form) for the module can be found on the TRA website.

The programme, originally developed by Trevor Roberts Associates in conjunction with the University of Cambridge, provides a unique opportunity for anyone involved in planning enforcement to undertake certificated training and work towards a formal qualification.  For those interested in obtaining the qualification on offer, the programme leads to the award of the Certificate in Planning Enforcement (through the successful completion of four modules out of the five available). However, we are also very pleased to have people attend individual modules on topics of particular relevance to them on a "one-off" basis. Details of the programme as a whole, and further information on the other modules available and the dates they are next due to run, can also be found on our website.

For each module, students are required to attend two two-day Tutorial Sessions at Madingley Hall in Cambridge, and complete project work based on their own work situation.  Because of this, a certain level of commitment is required but ultimately the student will gain a systematic framework for their job, and invaluable knowledge and skills which can make real improvements to their day-to-day work, their own professional development, and also be of great benefit to their authority.  Feedback from previous students has been very positive and some of their comments can be viewed here.

Attendance on each module is strictly limited to 12, so if you are interested in attending but unable to make a firm booking straight away, a provisional booking is strongly recommended at this stage. These can be made by contacting Shelagh Pooley on 01204 385678 or, or via our online provisional booking facility. Shelagh will also be pleased to answer any questions you may have about this particular module or the programme as a whole.


Hammersmith and Fulham submits CIL Schedule for exam - 25/11/14

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham submitted its Draft CIL Charging Schedule to TRA on the 18th November. The schedule will be examined by experienced examiner Terrence Kemmann-Lane.

Submitting your CIL Schedule automatically to the Planning Inspectorate is not the only option available. TRA established its CIL Examination service to offer an alternative route for authorities looking to appoint a CIL Examiner.  As an independent organisation that has provided support for the planning service for many years, TRA is ideally placed to offer a prompt, professional and competitively-priced CIL Examination service.

If you are working towards the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy in your authority, why not let us provide you with a quotation?  Further details can be found on the CIL Examination page of our website and you can also contact Penny O'Shea on 01204 385678 or to discuss your requirements on a no-commitment basis.

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.