TRA's 2019 Conference for Planning Support Staff was held on 23 May in London, with just short of 70 delegates from LPAs across the country in attendance.
The first speaker was Mike Hyde, an independent consultant and TRA Associate, and his presentation focused on how staff can effectively support the enforcement function. He highlighted the fact that, despite being one of the three limbs of planning, enforcement is often not well supported but that the keeping of records of complaints and site histories can play a vital role in the effective delivery of this crucial service.
Caron Taylor, Principal Planner at Chorley Council, provided a very topical presentation on Prior Notifications, including "hot of the press" updates on changes to the system. In particular she focused on the specific differing requirements around the front and back ends of the process and the importance of getting the procedures right for each class of notification.
Emily Barry, Planning RegistrationTeam Leader at South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse shared services, gave a thought provoking presentation on the possibilities of raising extra revenue to support the ever-increasing demands on her service. She raised a number of options with delegates regarding miscellaneous charging fees.
After lunch the speakers were joined on the panel by Vivien Green, TRA Senior Associate, and a round table discussion was led by the day's Chair Chris Weetman. The wide ranging debate allowed for further questions on the morning presentations plus the opportunity to look at the wider issues of local lists and their value, payments through the portal, and the use of alternative providers amongst other topics. .
The day's final speaker was Debbie Hardy, Technical Planning Manager at Milton Keynes Council, who gave delegates an update, a year on, on how the use of Artificial Intelligence was progressing in the recognition and validation of applications and the wider support of planning. Debbie and her team have received a number of awards for their work, some of which is now being "mirrored" by alternative providers.
All presentations were well received and feedback from delegates was positive:
- Interesting topics, good speakers. Good chance to find out how other local authorities work - differences and similarities. Jo Ansell, Test Valley BC
- Useful ideas, updates, discussions from different boroughs running things differently. Nathan Fell, Elmbridge BC
- The round table chat was so interesting and helpful, so keep that feature. Stephanie Keeler, Broadland DC
- Two way conversation between speakers and attendees and not just talked at. Comfortable atmosphere and questions were flowing. Thank you for holding this event. Verity Allen, North York Moors NP
- Very informative speakers with lots on info to take back to the office. Harvey Moodley, Elmbridge BC
- Very interesting. The round table discussion was very useful because it covered a lot of points/issues that majority of councils are having. Sadie Brown, Slough BC
We're looking forward to next year's Conference already....