TRA ENews is the monthly newsletter of Trevor Roberts Associates. It provides information about TRA generally, its staff and Associates, current and forthcoming events, new training courses and consultancy services etc.
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As featured in last month's ENews, bookings are now being taken for our latest Conference for Planning Support Staff. The Conference is taking place in London on 19 June and we'd recommend booking soon if you do want to attend. If you can't send a booking right away it would be best to reserve a place provisionally via our online provisional booking system or by contacting Shelagh Pooley on 01204 385678.
Topics being covered include:
Full details and a booking form are on our website. Discounts are available if you book more than one place and/or if you are a member of the Planning Admin Network. We hope to see you there.Back to top
TRA was recently asked to contribute to Planning magazine's regular careers advice slot, with a look at key knowledge and skills gaps for planners and how training can help.
In TRA's experience, current training needs are strongly influenced by the increasing requirement to encourage development at the same time as coping with reduced departmental resources. The feature was published earlier this week and in it, Principal Director, Penny O'Shea, highlights four specific areas of professional development that can help planners facing this challenge, namely:
You can view the article on the Planning website or read the full text on the TRA website.
If you are interested in training in any of these areas, either on an inter-authority or in-house basis, please visit our website for more information on what's available or get in touch direct to discuss your needs.Back to top
Last year's training programme saw the introduction of a brand new workshop on Validation. Effective Validation: good practice for all application types proved very popular with all of the 20 places available being snapped up! The workshop is due to run again in London on 5 June and a few places are still available if you would like to attend, however prompt booking is recommended.
The workshop is concerned with validating the wide range of applications submitted to a Planning Authority: planning, advertisement, listed building, trees, certificates of lawfulness and prior notifications.
It considers the different requirements for different types of application as set out in primary and secondary legislation (including the fee regime); Government policy on the use of local validation requirements; and when to ask for further information. Identification of statutory consultations, notifications and publicity usually follows from validation and identification of constraints, so the workshop also ensures that participants are aware and up to date on the requirements for different application types. The workshop concludes by considering how authorities deal with invalid applications, handle disputes and when an appeal against non-determination can be made. It highlights throughout the opportunities that exist through incremental and marginal changes to make this key element of the process both more efficient and effective.
Comments of previous participants include:
Firm bookings can be made by completing the booking form and provisional bookings to secure your place for a short time can be made online.Back to top
"The LGA endorses the good practice of many councils which ensures that their members receive training on the planning process when first serving on the planning committee. It also recommends that members be updated regularly on changes to legislation or procedures. Such training is essential for those members involved in making decisions on planning applications and on local development documents. Authorities should provide training on the planning processes for all members." Local Government Association, Probity in Planning.
For some authorities local Council elections are fast approaching. We would like to remind those of you who are considering providing planning training in the coming months about the importance of booking early; 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:
If the time commitment for Councillors is a major consideration we can also offer shorter sessions (usually 3 hours) with flexible timings during a morning, afternoon or evening. These sessions are essentially shortened versions of the above one-day workshops and are delivered by one presenter. Please note that due to time constraints a full case study cannot be used during the shorter sessions.
Below you can see some participant feedback from previous Councillor in-house workshops:
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 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 date. A number of authorities have already avoided the rush and booked their training days - so don't leave it until the last minute, contact us today!
To see an outline programme without obligation, or to arrange a booking please contact Angela Holmes.Back to top
The TRA 2014 Training Workshop Programmes get underway shortly with our first batches of workshops taking place in Glasgow on 13 May and London on 5 June. Looking slightly further ahead, we have a group of workshops coming up on 24 June at our Manchester venue aimed not only at Planning Staff, but also covering topics relevant to those involved in Planning Enforcement and Planning Support:
Further details of all these workshops and booking forms are available on the TRA website via the above links. If you are unable to make a firm booking straight away, provisional bookings to reserve places can be made by telephoning 01204 385678 or via our online provisional bookings facility.Back to top
In May 1984, at the age of 40, I gave up my job as Director of Housing with Ipswich BC and set up TRA on a freelance basis, moving to Bolton in the process for various family
reasons. So I found myself with no source of income, a wife with no job, two young children, and enough money to allow us to pay the mortgage and survive for about six months with care -
after that our high dive would look decidedly unwise.
Survival was paramount. Initially I advertised a market stall of services based on housing management, planning, and a new venture - management training for local government. As a local government employee, I had not been able to get "clients" in advance, so was starting from scratch.
My first couple of years involved an amazing variety of jobs small and large. I set up some management training workshops myself in Bolton ("nearer than you think" was a catchphrase for a time), ran a sixth form confer ence on housing for Three Rivers DC, trained sales staff for a company marketing alarm systems to local government, advised a betting shop chain on how to handle involvement in urban renewal schemes, taught monthly on a new course in housing studies at Birmingham Polytechnic (now BCU), did a major housing organisation and management review for the London Borough of Greenwich, and undertook various management training assignments in Hackney, Test Valley, Middlesbrough, Cheshire and Cambridgeshire.
The bit of my market stall which took off most was in-house management training. By 1988, TRA was still just me, based at home but working away during the week for local authorities all over England and a few in Scotland (thanks to a link with the Planning Exchange), and running management workshops set up, promoted and sold directly myself in a range of venues. Working at full capacity (supported by a part time administrator, Sylvia Ashcroft, who stayed with TRA until 2000), the only way to expand appeared to be to take on staff. Instead, the model chosen was to expand into training more generally, working through contracted "associates" - trusted personal contacts who could work independently and reliably. This was how TRA developed between 1987 and about 1996, when the current mixture of in-house training and workshops was established (including the unique connection with Cambridge University as a base for training for planning staff). Also during this time I set up the pioneering RTPI North West Update series of training events, which combined TRA's commercial expertise in event management with the continuous professional development aspirations of the RTPI.
I had been on the RTPI Council since 1978 and in 1996 decided to run for President. This prompted changes to allow TRA to run much more independently of myself - a move away from my house to an office base in central Bolton, appointment of a key central co-ordinator, Penny O'Shea (now Principal Director), and expansion of the Associates team. Consequently when I was RTPI President in 1998-99, the business carried on smoothly despite my heavy presidential commitments. This model of a strong centre co-ordinating and supporting a diverse team of independent associates and presenters has proved very resilient.
From 2000, TRA expanded its training activities significantly, and developed a new strand of work - consultancy on the organisation of planning, especially development control/management, linked to a unique online procedure manual system. Although the reliance on independent associates continued, TRA employed some professional staff directly for the first time, including Stewart Glassar who is still with TRA. I gradually handed over running of the business to Penny while spending most of my time "on the road" doing training and consultancy assignments all over the country.
In 2007 I gave two years' notice that I would retire in 2009, worked flat out until June of that year and then - much to everyone's amazement - bowed out completely from any direct involvement (the majority of the business is still owned by my family). Apart from family commitments, I have devoted retirement to chairing the Brathay Exploration Group (an organisation which runs expeditions for young people in the UK and abroad) through an especially tough patch; and pushing through a massive Village Hall revitalisation scheme in Threlkeld where I live (see http://threlkeldvillagehall.org). My planning and business experience has proved vital in both roles. Also important has been learning Italian - in Italy.
Meanwhile TRA has continued under Penny's leadership. Systematic business planning has always been a feature of TRA, so the recession was anticipated (though not its scale and impact) and some steps were taken to retrench on activities before I retired. However, the last five years have been tough, with the general recession accompanied by massive uncertainty in the planning/local government scene. The flexible organisation model coupled with lack of debt, tight control of overheads, and developing new types of business has enabled TRA to survive while many of our competitors have not. Managing a business in times of expansion is difficult, but keeping it going through a period of downturn and uncertainty is much harder. I am therefore grateful to all those involved who have achieved this.
I had a great time with TRA, worked with stimulating and interesting people who all became friends, met hundreds of people (most of whom I remember). I am pleased that after 30 years it continues on much the same basis as it started: professional, high quality, personal and efficient.
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 Local Plan process or the Development Management process - understanding who your customers are and how their needs might be met is an often overlooked element of the job.
It is with this in mind that North Hertfordshire District Council recently commissioned TRA to deliver an in-house session for their staff on Managing the Planning Customer's Experience.
This one-day interactive workshop was delivered by TRA presenter, Chris Weetman; providing 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.
Feedback from the participants was particularly encouraging:
If you are interested in the possibility of running this workshop on an in-house basis, or you would like more information, such as an outline programme, then please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes directly.
Please note: this workshop has also been included in the main TRA inter-authority programme for 2014 and is scheduled to run in London on 23rd September; see the full details here.Back to top
Tel: (01204) 385678
Fax: (01204) 386376
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