ENews Issue - 19 December 2007

ENews - December 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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We would like to wish all our clients, Presenters, Associates and business contacts of all kinds a very Merry Christmas and a happy and successful New Year. We are grateful for all the support we have received during the year and look forward to keeping in touch with you all during 2008.

Please note that the TRA office will be closed on Monday 24 December. However, we will be here between Christmas and New Year (27, 28 & 31 December).


Over the last year, 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/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 and Time Management
  • 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 own department or authority please contact Suzanne Waldram for further information.


TRA has been providing training for planning support staff, in various formats, since 1990 and our extensive portfolio of events currently consists of:

  • several 1-day inter-authority workshops run in England and Scotland
  • two annual conferences, one in London and one in Manchester
  • the certificated course in Town Planning Support run in conjunction with Cambridge University, and
  • a considerable amount of in-house training, both off-the-peg and bespoke.

TRA has a great deal of experience of providing in-house training and the advantages for the authority o f this type of training are considerable:

  • the per capita cost can be much lower than sending a number of staff on external events
  • time away from work is kept to a minimum
  • training can be tailored to meet specific local requirements
  • the impact can be greater when groups of staff are involved in training together.

In terms of in-house training for support staff, we offer a range of topics to suit all experience levels. For more information on any of the courses available please contact Suzanne Waldram.

Recent examples of TRA in-house workshops include:

  • The Basics of Planning for Frontline Staff, delivered for the London Borough of Lambeth (Good overview of the entire planning system. Added to the knowledge I already had, confirmed things I was unsure of, and taught me more as well - Chris Sander)
  • Permitted Development, delivered for Warrington BC (A very thorough explanation of all permitted development criteria and clarified a few points which often cause a fair amount of discussion/different viewpoints in the office - Steven Burgoyne)
  • The Essential Elements of DC Support, delivered for Rotherham MBC (I found this very useful and would look forward to any TRA course in the future - Stacey Thompson).


Dover District Council is the latest authority to commission TRA to undertake a review of their DC procedures and develop an online DC Procedure Guide.

Dover's Procedure Guide was completed at the end of November, following the submission of a detailed Review of Procedures in the summer.

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 2008 programme of workshops organised by TRA on behalf of NATO (the National Association of Tree Officers) is now available. Brochures will be circulated to our usual mailing contacts in the next few weeks and details are available on the website now.

The programme features many of our well-established workshops as well as four brand new ones:

  • Rural tree and woodland amenity planting
  • Urban tree planting and management
  • Arboricultural techniques, methods and materials explained
  • Risk management for tree populations.

Discounted prices are available via our block booking scheme if you bo ok 3 or more places (spread over any number of events). A special block booking form can be downloaded here.

Many of the workshops get booked up quite quickly so early booking is advised. Please contact Shelagh Pooley to reserve places or for further information.


This section of ENews is a way for people who have taken part in the TRA/Cambridge University certificated courses to keep in contact with us and each other. We are keen to keep in touch so please let Shelagh at TRA know if you have any news.

Congratulations to Steve Robshaw from Fenland DC who has gained Technical Membership of the RTPI, using his relevant experience and the TRA/Cambridge qualification to satisfy the Institute's requirements. Steve was awarded the Certificate of Continuing Education in Planning Enforcement at Madingley earlier this year.

For further information on routes to Technical Membership following the award of the Cambridge Certificate please contact Shelagh at TRA.

Cate Buck left Mid Suffolk DC over the summer to join Babergh DC. Cate is part way through the certificated enf orcement programme and is continuing with the support of her new authority. Mark Turner left the enforcement section at Slough BC during the sumer to join Wokingham DC as a planning officer. Mark is carrying on with the Cambridge enforcement certificate alongside his planning degree course. We hope things are going well for both of them in their new roles.

Ruth Sainsbury from Broadland DC had her second daugher, Olive Martha, on 31 October. Daughter no.1, Anya, is delighted with her new sister. Best wishes to the whole family.


TRA's 2008 programme of training for planning and development practitioners in Scotland has now been finalised. Details are available on the website now and publicity brochures are currently being circulated to our usual contacts.

The 2008 programme features six brand new topics:

  • The Procurement and Management of Consultants
  • Personal Effectiveness and Time Management
  • Changes in Planning Enforcement: an essential update
  • Trees and the Planning Process
  • Appearing at Hearings
  • Effective Planning and Enforcement Site Visits.

If you are on our publicity circulation list you will receive details of the 2008 programme automatically. If you're not yet on the list but would like to receive details you can sign-up now. We would encourage you to sign up to receive our publicity via email to help reduce the environmental impact.

Individual leaflets/booking forms for each event will be available shortly but if you want to book a place on any of the workshops featured in the programme you can do so now using the general booking form or the discounted block booking form (save 15%). As always, you can also reserve places provisionally by giving us a call or by using the provisional bookings facility on our website.

Our Scottish programme is always extremely popular, with most workshops fully subscribed, so prompt booking is recommended.


Because TRA is particularly committed to providing training for those involved in enforcement, the decision was made after several years of sell-out annual Enforcement Forums to organise two of these events each year, allowing even more people to attend. The dates for the two Forums in 2008 have now been finalised and these are Thursday 3 April and Thursday 16 October, both in Warrington.

Specific programme details will be announced in due course but it is possible to reserve places on either of these events now. Both events are included in our 2008 block booking scheme which gives a 15% discount and several places have already been reserved on both events via block bookings.

Feedback on the Forum, which has been organised by TRA since 1990, is always extremely positive. Comments from participants at the latest Forum in October this year include:

The Forum was once again a good opportunity to pick up good ideas for best practice in delivering our services. Paul Clements, Malvern Hills DC

Excellent update and opportunity to network. Nice to see enforcement so well represented and supported. Sue Taylor, Bolsover DC

Very useful and motivating. Lively presentations. Anne Markwell, Calderdale MBC

The sharing of experiences at this event is always very worthwhile. Tony Harper, South Holland DC.

We always do our best to ensure that the coverage of the Forum is as topical as possible. If you would like to suggest a particular topic for next year's events please feel free to email Enforcement Forum. Obviously, we can't promise to follow up on all suggestions but we do appreciate your input.


TRA has a well-established reputation for its procedural/organisational consultancy services. In the main, these have so far been applied to the planning and development control functions but there are a number of similar options available to the building control service. We have already produced online Building Control Procedure Guides for two authorities (South Oxfordshire and East Dorset) and carried out a Building Control service review for St Helens Council. The types of assignment which we can undertake include:

  • reviews of the interface between building control, planning, development control and enforcement
  • reviews of the organisational struc ture, management, staffing and procedures within building control
  • assessments of building control business plans, marketing strategies, alternative delivery options and mechanisms
  • feasibility studies for establishing shared services etc.

If the idea of commissioning this kind of work is of interest to you please feel free to contact Penny O'Shea for a no-obligation discussion.


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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