ENews Issue - 30 April 2007

ENews - April 2007

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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TRA is about to launch a brand new scheme which offers local authorities an independently verified certification that:

  • its Planning Committee procedures/conduct meet the standards of best practice
  • its Planning Committee members are properly trained in relation to their decision-making functions.
The certification is offered by TRA on the basis of its unrivalled and respected experience of training Councillors involved in planning (built up over the last 15 years) and on its lengthy experience in advising local authorities on the procedures and practice of planning decision-making involving Councillors.

The main advantages of the TRA scheme are that:

  • it is entirely independent of Government
  • it is conducted by acknowledged experts
  • the process involves close and continuous working relationships with the authority to achieve improvements, it is not simply a one-off assessment.

The scheme involves:

  • an initial detailed assessment of Committee operation and Councillor training needs, leading to recommendations for procedure/practice modification and a training specification
  • a period of supported change while authorities consider and implement TRA recommendations and implement a training programme
  • an assessment of procedures by TRA, followed by the issuing of a formal report certifying the quality of procedures and of the training of Councillors involved in planning; this will involve a straight-forward rating of 1 to 5 stars
  • any ongoing training and advice required, with an annual re-assessment and renewal of the certification report.

The scheme will be of particular interest to any Councils which have made, or are thinking of making, training compulsory for Councillors involved in planning; although this is by no means essential to the adoption of the scheme.

Further details of the scheme will be available shortly but anyone wishing to make initial enquiries about this brand new service should contact Penny O'Shea, without obligation.


TRA offers in-house training for planning staff on a wide range of topics. Details can be found on our website of:

  • in-house training for Development Control
  • in-house training for Planning Support Staff
  • in-house training for Inquiries

Recent in-house training sessions include:

An Introduction to DC for Contact Centre/Frontline Staff for Arun DC

"We covered everything that I should need to carry out my job efficiently", Chris Denyer.

"I feel more confident now and have a basic knowledge of planning matters", Paula Marshall.

Training on Public Inquiries for Lancashire CC staff involved in the forthcoming Inquiry into the M6 to Heysham link road

"Covered all the ground - mock inquiry set-up very good - gave good advice and guidance during the process."

"Provided a good balance between instruction and practical exercise."

Preparing Committee Reports and Appeal Statements for Highland Council

"Gives me confidence in pursuing the aim of producing clear and concise reports."

There was plenty of discussion of issues raised. All questions were answered and everyone was able to speak if they wished. Content was very good and plenty of examples were given."

If you would like further information on any of our existing in-house workshops or would like to know if we could produce a tailored session for you, please contact Suzanne Waldram.


Kerrier DC, in Cornwall, is the latest authority to have its Development Control procedures reviewed and subsequently documented in the form of an online Procedure Guide by TRA.

The Procedure Guide was completed and handed over to the authority at the beginning of April, with the Review of Procedures having been submitted in January. This latest assignment built on the work previously undertaken by TRA when it carried out a review of the authority's enforcement function in late 2005 and developed an online Procedure Guide specifically for enforcement and appeals in April 2006.

The service provided by TRA is unique in combining a highly detailed and thorough Review of DC performance, procedures, management and resources/capacity with the production of a comprehensive online Procedure Guide for DC which is tailored to the particular structure and set-up of the individual client authority.

Key benefits of the Procedure Guide include:

- helping to ensure consistency in the handling of planning applications

- assisting new or inexperienced staff, providing support for training in techniques and procedures

- providing a template against which any complaints or investigations can be assessed

- helping to minimise disruption due to staff changes

- providing guidance on procedures which are less frequently used, to minimise re-inventing the wheel.

A brochure providing considerable detail on both the Review and Procedure Guide elements of this service is available on request. Some basic information is available on our website, including a link to a demonstration version of the DC Procedure Guide. A list of previous clients can also be accessed via the website.

If you would like to know more about this unique service please feel free to contact Penny O'Shea for an informal discussion, without obligation.


Local authorities must deliver improved services to meet challenging efficiency targets and address the government's modernising agenda. TRA's newly developed Management in the Modern Local Authority programme can assist local authority managers to meet these challenges in a variety of ways. TRA has an established reputation for providing quality and cost-effective management training/development for local authority staff. There are three workshops running in June 2007 which senior/middle managers should find particularly appropriate.

Business and service planning

The translation of corporate objectives into a system of business and service plans is now a central feature of local authority organisation, often putting a lot of pressure on staff in middle management positions. This new workshop aims to simplify the process and to encourage the development of service and business plans which genuinely integrate the organisation, provide a clear framework for defining and monitoring progress, and generate staff commitment.

Finding and exploiting external resource opportunities

In all fields of local government, there are a range of opportunities for securing external resources (often funding). Regardless of the particular field concerned, there are some generic skills and mechanisms which managers can develop to help maximise the potential of such opportunities and these are explored in this new workshop.

Getting to grips with performance management

"Performance management" is the general term covering approaches with a heavy emphasis on specified targets and the monitoring of results in relation to these. This new workshop reviews the approach, the techiques involved, the different types of indicator/target, how to monitor effectively, and how to build performance consciousness into the organisation generally.

Each workshop is delivered by a practitioner presenter with lengthy local government experience at a senior level and involves a variety of training mechanisms including group discussion and practical exercises.

Places are still available on all three workshops but prompt booking is strongly recommended at this stage. PDF leafets/booking forms can be downloaded here. Provisional bookings can be made by telephone or using the provisional bookings facility on our website.


This year's NATO/TRA workshop programme for those involved with trees includes a brand new workshop focusing on E-standards for trees. The workshop is running first in York on 7 June and there are still places available if you would like to attend.

As part of the National e-Service Delivery Standards project, the government has produced a series of standards for tree e-service delivery. These standards provide a framework by which all local authority tree services should be operated. The workshop covers: the scope of the e-standards; the implications of implementation at the local level; the identification of resource requirements; and how to develop an appropriate e-standards strategy for your authority.

To book a place, you can download a PDF leaflet/booking form from our website. To make a provisional booking please contact Shelagh Pooley or use our provisional booking facility online.

Please note that places are also available on Special Surfaces: installation of hard surfaces under trees and Trees and Development: future strategies, both running in London on 13 June.


TRA recently designed and delivered a bespoke two-day training workshop for support staff at West Northamptonshire Development Corporation. The Development Corporation is newly formed and many of the staff involved have no previous planning experience. The training, which was delivered by Senior Associate Vivien Green, included a one-day overview of the planning process to help staff understand the key elements of the planning process and the key legislative and policy aspects involved and a second, more advanced, one-day workshop looking in detail at the DC function within the Development Corporation itself.

Feedback from the session was very positive:

The training was delivered to an extremely high standard. The content and format flowed very well and was presented in a way that was accessible to all. Sarah Cracknell

I am a complete novice to planning and Vivien has given me an excellent overview to help me understand the planning process. She made the course very interesting and informative. Denise Powell

A very useful workshop. Helped to clarify some of the principles and processes of planning as I do not have a planning background. Hayley Blundell

We offer a range of training for support staff on an in-house basis. Details are available on our website. We are also happy to consider developing bespoke sessions to suit the needs of individual organisations. For further information please contact Suzanne Waldram.


There are still a few places available on three workshops running in May 2007 as part of our programme for planning and development practitioners in England and Wales. Prompt booking is recommended if you would like to attend any of the following:

Design in Development Control: adding value to mainstream applications - 17 May in Bristol. This practical workshop is a must for all DC staff and no previous design knowledge is required. This workshop is usually fully booked, so take advantage while you can!

"A very detailed overview of the issues which will be helpful in DC work" Richard Clews, Basildon DC

Appearing at Hearings - 23 May in London. This is a highly practical workshop which includes a thorough briefing on procedures, style and good practice, followed by a mock Hearing exercise using a real case study.

"The course took the 'fear factor' out of appearing at Hearings" Beverley Alderton-Sambrook, Rotherham MBC

Establishing a Robust Evidence Base for Planning Policy - 24 May in Manchester. This is a brand new workshop for 2007, focusing on the mechanisms and good practice which can be used to ensure that planning policies have a firm and evidenced basis. Principally aimed at those in the public sector, it would also be of interest to those in the private sector who may need to challenge the basis for policies and to DC staff who need to appreciate the justification for the policies they are applying.

To reserve places provisionally please contact Shelagh Pooley or use our online provisional bookings facility. To make a confirmed booking you can download a PDF leaflet/booking form from our website or request one from the TRA office.


TRA is organising a specialist workshop uniquely aimed at "key players" in the planning field within modern local authority structures, namely Planning Chairs and Portfolio Holders. The workshop will run over two days, 19 & 20 July 2007 at Madingley Hall, Cambridge, an excellent venue for residential events.

The now familiar separation of policy development, scrutiny and other functions has posed problems for the statutory planning system, particularly in the relationship between planning policy and development control (which is classified as a "regulatory" function when it is by definition intimately linked to policy interpretation). The ethical framework under the Local Government Act 2000, expressed via the Model Code of Conduct, also has important ramifications for Councillors involved in planning.

The Barker Review of Land Use Planning (2005) and the DCLG report Councillor involvement in planning decisions (2007) both highlighted the issues involved, so this workshop is especially timely and reflects these concerns.

The workshop offers an opportunity to compare different approaches within the context of clear guidance on how local authority structures relate to the framework of planning law and good practice.

Please click here for further details of the workshop. To reserve one of the limited places available please contact Shelagh Pooley.


TRA has developed a brand new workshop - A Briefing on Planning for Housing Associations. The workshop is aimed at all staff in Housing Associations, and in particular senior staff and those on the development side, who need to have a good grasp of how the UK planning system operates.

The workshop aims to demystify the planning system and help Associations relate to it more effectively and more productively, in order to achieve their objectives more completely and more quickly.

The workshop covers:

  • an overview of the planning system at all levels, so that participants can appreciate how all the different parts fit together
  • the increasing significance of planning policy and how Housing Associations can contribute to and influence this
  • a briefing on the development control framework and process, including the roles of local authority officers and councillors, and how to use it effectively
  • s106 agreements, especially in relation to social and affordable housing (a major focus of the workshop) in urban and rural contexts
  • handling appeals
  • developing a list of key points to improve the interface between Housing Associations and the planning system.

For further information or to reserve places, please contact Shelagh Pooley.


Trevor Roberts Associates

1 Atlas House, St. Georges Square,

Bolton, BL1 2HB,

United Kingdom Tel: (01204) 385678 Fax: (01204) 386376 Email: mail@tra-ltd.co.uk Website: http://www.tra-ltd.co.uk/


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