ENews Issue - 29 May 2007

ENews - May 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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Over the past six months or so, TRA has been extending its management training services beyond the planning service and into local government more widely. TRA has a reputation for providing down-to-earth, value for money, management training and development and is keen to enable other areas of local government to take advantage of this service.

As part of this expansion, TRA has put together a series of focused one-day in-house workshops covering some of the key management skills which will help local authority managers to improve their performance and meet the challenges they face in an ever-changing work environment.

The training is appropriate for those currently in middle management positions as well as new managers. It is also useful for those who are aiming for, or are being groomed for, a future management role. The workshops currently available are:

  • Professionals Becoming Managers
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Supervision and Leadership
  • Managing Effective Meetings
  • Leading and Working in Teams
  • Change Management.

Further details on each workshop can be found in the Programmes section of our website, along with background information on the series Presenter, Trevor Atkinson.

The workshops are designed to be delivered on an in-house basis for individual authorities. They can either be run for a group of staff from within same department or for a group coming from a variety of departments/backgrounds across the authority.

If you have experience of TRA training and think that colleagues in other areas of your authority may be interested in this new series, we would appreciate it if you would pass these details on. If, on the other hand, you are interested in organising a workshop for your department or authority please contact Suzanne Waldram for further information.


This year, TRA is being represented at the RTPI Planning Convention by Principal Director, Penny O'Shea, and Senior Associate, Jed Griffiths. Please feel free to seek us out if you would like to chat about any of the services we offer to support local authority planning departments, or just to say hello/catch up.

We are not taking an exhibition stand this year but Penny and Jed will be circulating as much as possible during the Convention on 14/15 June and look forward to meeting up with clients old and new (and, of course, potential!).


This year's workshop programme for planning and development staff in Scotland is proving as popular as ever. Of the six workshops running in the first half of the year, five have (or will) run with maximum numbers of 20.

Workshops will start running again in September, after the summer break, and the good news is that there are places available on all the sessions between September and December. Early booking is strongly recommended though to avoid disappointment. The topics being covered are:

  • Understanding Operational Development
  • Preparing Committee Reports and Appeal Statements
  • An Introduction to Development Control/Management
  • Design in Development Control/Management
  • Basic Principles of Urban Design
  • Permitted Development.

If you haven't already done so, there is also still time to take advantage of our discounted block booking scheme.

To reserve places provisionally, please contact Shelagh Pooley or complete our online provisional booking form. To make a firm booking please complete and return one of our booking forms - available from the website or on request.


In last month's ENews we previewed our brand new Training & Certification Scheme for Planning Committees. We had an encouraging response in terms of initial enquiries and further details of this unique new TRA service are now available - download PDF leaflet here.

A printed brochure is also currently being produced and this will be circulated shortly to our usual planning contacts. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive a copy please let us know. Alternatively, you can sign up to our mailing list now.


Please note that we will be increasing the module price for the Planning Enforcement and Management Concepts and Skills in Planning certificated courses for all modules running after 1 January 2008. The new price will be £795 plus VAT per module, in line with the pricing of the new certificated course in Planning Support.

There is a huge amount of work involved on TRA's part in these certificated courses (as well as on the part of the student) and the price increase is intended to reflect both this and increases in our costs generally. Despite the price increase (only the second one since the programmes began in 1996/97), we are confident that the programmes continue to offer excellent value for money. Each module comes out at the equivalent of less than £200 per day, for which students receive: small-group expert tuition; content specifically tailored to their work situation; in-depth consideration of issues which is just not possible on a one-day course; assessment of project work by both TRA and the University of Cambridge; support from the Course Tutor and TRA staff throughout; and on successful completion of the course, a recognised and valued qualification from a University of international standing.

Please note that if you have already made a confirmed booking for a 2008 module on either the Enforcement or Management course, you will only be charged the original price of £695 plus VAT.


TRA were commissioned by St. Helens Council to undertake an exciting two-day urban design training event earlier this month for a group of 23 development control officers, planning policy officers, and transport and regeneration staff and managers.

The event involved an interesting day visiting best practice examples of the built environment in Salford followed by an office-based training workshop in St. Helens. The Council wants to place greater emphasis on good design within the planning process and the site visits were designed to increase awareness amongst staff of the principles of good design. During the second day, participants worked in groups to analyse the design qualities of the Salford sites and use what they had learned to prepare an outline design for a future development site in St. Helens.

Mark Dickens, St. Helens Council's Development Services Manager, said "It is important that staff involved in the planning process have the experience, confidence and tools to prepare suitable design briefs and to challenge developers who submit poor quality design proposals. This training event was a great success and has begun the process of securing higher quality design in St. Helens."

Other feedback on the training was also positive:

"it was supposed to be an introduction to urban design and it did exactly what it said on the tin"

"the content was relevant and concise and will be valuable when dealing with schemes in the future"

"a valuable reminder of the key attributes of good design, interesting and informative discussions and exercises"

Below, participants visiting a site in Salford (left) and later working on a practical exercise:

If you are interested in a similar training event for your own authority please contact Suzanne Waldram for further information.


Dudley MBC is one of an ever-growing number of authorities who have engaged TRA to undertake a review of their DC procedures and develop an online Procedure Guide for the department.

Dudley's Procedure Guide was completed earlier this month, following the submission of a detailed Review of Procedures in February.

TRA's reviews of DC are unashamedly thorough and cover the following elements:

  • a review of performance, covering quality, consistency and speed of decision-making (providing an essential context)
  • a review of all development control procedures with a view to improving efficiency and effectiveness, (from pre-application discussions through to the recording and notification of decisions, including Committee procedures, and also covering appeals and enforcement)
  • a review of management, staff structures and resources/capacity (this is a crucial element of the assignment to ensure that the authority gets the most effective results from any procedural changes and specification).

Each Procedure Guide is unique to the individual local authority, reflecting its particular structure and procedures but also incorporating best practice. It operates via a private internet site and is available via a secure password system to any member of staff, at any time, via any internet-linked computer. Crucially, the Guide can be easily updated at any time by the authority's own staff. This not only overcomes a major difficulty with traditional hard copy procedure manuals, but in itself can become a major tool of continuous improvement.

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.

Please note that in addition to this kind of assignment, which is admittedly a considerable commitment for the authority, we are also happy to undertake similar assignments but of a more limited scope, for example focusing on a particular element of the DC service. Details of our focused reviews of specific aspects of DC/planning can be found on our website and we would be happy to discuss your particular requirements.


The "introductory" module on the brand new TRA/Cambridge University Certificated Programme for Planning Support Staff is running again in October/November and there still a few places available.

The module is entitled The UK Planning Framework and the Role of Planning Support within it and is designed to help participants consider such issues as: what is meant by planning support; what are the "administrative" and "technical" functions of a planning department; and what do support staff need to fulfil their role?

Feedback from the first time the module ran, back in January/February, was very positive:

"I understand a great deal more than I did before the course and I am eager to learn more. The course has given me the confidence to implement new-found knowledge and the foundations have been laid for future knowledge-building." Pamela Armstrong, Gateshead MBC.

"I have gained a great deal in terms of understanding the UK planning system. The course has helped me to gain more confidence and I think that has come from the presentations and writing the assignments. I feel that my report writing skills have improved greatly too. I have very much enjoyed this learning experience and will be going on to do the other three modules." Julie Scroggins, Peterborough City Council

The certificated programme represents a unique and exciting new opportunity for those working in planning support to undertake training/development and work towards a recognised qualification. There are four modules in the programme and students need to successfully complete all four in order to obtain the Certificate of Continuing Education from Cambridge University.

For further information or to reserve your place on the October/November module please contact Shelagh Pooley.


More than 90 people participated in our latest Conference for Planning Support Staff held in London at the end of April. Participants came from the full range of authority types and, as well as strong support from the south east, people attended from as far afield as Derby and South Tyneside. The event was well received and comments from participants were positive:

"It was good to hear the comments/experience/advice of others. I've picked up loads of good ideas to take back with me for discussion and potential development. Having only experienced planning for a year, I learned at least a couple of things I didn't know before!" Jane Luker, Surrey Heath BC.

"I found it very useful discussing everyday events with other officers and sharing email addresses. Speakers were very informative. It's only by attending conferences like this that you get the opportunity to hear other officers' views." Pam Press, Merton Council.

"Very interesting to hear other authorities' views and abilities, status of technology etc." Alison Marvin, Wycombe DC.

Although the conference is aimed primarily at support staff themselves, quite a number of officers with managerial/supervisory responsibility for the support function have also attended and found it beneficial. This is certainly something we would recommend.

The conference is run twice each year, once in London and once in Manchester, hopefully giving everyone who is interested in attending the opportunity to do so. The next event will be in Manchester on 27 September 2007 and details of speakers and topics will be publicised soon. If you would like to register your interest in receiving details once they are available please get in touch. You can also keep an eye on our website where details will be posted as soon as possible.


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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