ENews Issue - 14 March 2008

ENews - March 2008

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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The Communities and Local Government Committee, whose role is to examine the expenditure, policy and administration of CLG, has decided to carry out an inquiry on Planning Skills and recently asked for individuals and organisations to submit written evidence on various issues relating to Planning Skills. The Committee intends to take oral evidence later in the year.

As the leading provider of training to planning staff and councillors, TRA has made a submission to the Committee. Some of the points we made to the committee include:

  • recent changes to the planning system have not altered the basic skills needed by planners although these changes have of course required planners to take on a greater level of detail and knowledge on different topics and issues

  • in many instances the changes have resulted in authorities having to employ specialist consultants and there is a need to develop the project management, financial management and contract management skills to achieve the best results for their authority and community

  • planners are having to develop further their skills in areas such as mediation, communications and partnership working

  • there remain many fundamental areas of the planning system such as design issues, trees, appeal work, s106 and Environmental Impact Assessment which are still not always fully understood by planners and skills must continue to be developed in these areas as well

  • the difficulty in attracting new staff coupled with the loss of skilled planners means that the skills gap in many authorities continues to grow and the government must be encouraged to look at new and innovative ways of closing this gap

  • TRA has long campaigned for better training and a higher profile for the enforcement element of the planning system and this must be recognised by government

  • the introduction of local members review bodies raises a number of procedural and practical issues and we have set out some reservations and concerns about it.
View the full text of TRA's submission on our website.


As well as our open, inter-authority training sessions, TRA delivers a considerable amount of planning-related training on an in-house basis for individual authorities (or groups of neighbouring authorities).

Recent training sessions delivered on an in-house basis include:

- Planning Conditions: a positive approach, organised for Warrington BC as part of an extensive programme of in-house training currently being delivered by TRA.

Very informative. Lots of useful and relevant information which can be used back at the office on a daily basis....Very thorough explanation of all aspects of the use of planning conditions and when they are relevant....A highly beneficial course.

- The Basics of Planning Enforcement, for Wear Valley DC.

The amount of content surpassed what I though t was achievable. Good practical examples provided....Having limited enforcement experience it was really helpful and informative....It provided a thorough overview of the enforcement function and was presented with clarity....As a newly employed enforcement officer, the presentation gave me a good insight into practices, procedures and legislation.

- The Essential Elements of DC Support for Welwyn Hatfield Council.

Very interesting, good to refresh procedures etc especially with the impending changes.... More detailed than expected which filled in gaps in my knowledge. The group exercises were particularly helpful ....With regards to content and topics covered, it was excellent and informative.

Details can be found on our website of our:

  • in-house training in development control
  • in-house training for planning support staff
  • in-house training for inquiries/examinations

Please feel free to contact Suzanne Waldram, without obligation, if you would like more information on in-house training or if you are interested in organising a training session.


With Council elections in England and Wales coming up in May, you may be considering organising some training in the planning system for your Councillors. In-house Councillor training is one of TRA's most popular services for local authorities and has been for many years. We are the leading provider of practitioner-presented training for councillors involved in planning and have provided training for more than 160 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. A list of our clients can be found on our website.

Several Councils have already booked their training days with TRA during the May to July period but we do still have a reasonable amount of availability at this stage. Although we have a large team of presenters for Councillor training, the demand is always extremely high after the elections so we would suggest that you get in touch ASAP if you are interested in arranging some training.

Details of the workshops available for Councillors can be found on our website, along with some feedback from previous participants.

Our two most popular workshops, especially for new Councillors, are A Briefing on Planning for Councillors, which covers planning policy and procedures, principally in relation to development control and The Role of Councillors in Planning: probity and propriety issues, which tackles tricky issues such as conflicts and declarations of interest, material considerations, lobbying, and decisions contrary to officer advice.

If your authority doesn't have elections this year or if you are looking for more focused training for Councillors with some experience, we also offer a range of Briefings on specific aspects of planning.

If you are in Scotland and considering training for your Councillors, details of the options available can also be found on our website.

For further details or to arrange a training session please contact Suzanne Waldram.


TRA has introduced several new topics to its workshop programme for planning practitioners in 2008. Two of these brand new workshops are running in April and places are still available - (prompt booking is strongly recommended).

The Procurement and Management of Consultants - London, 22 April

This brand new workshop is aimed at local authority staff who are required to engage consultants to carry out work for their authority. Individuals are not normally trained in commissioning consultants and can often encounter difficulties, some of which can be extremely costly. The workshop provides practical assistance in understanding the procurement process and the different options for engaging consultants. It offers useful advice and information on how to construct a brief; how to select and appoint the most appropriate consultants; and h ow to manage contracts in order to obtain a timely and value for money outcome for the authority.

The workshop is presented by Trevor Atkinson. Trevor has over 30 years' experience in local government and the private sector and has extensive experience of managing projects and the procurement and management of consultants and contractors.

Trees and the Planning Process - London, 22 April

The aim of this brand new workshop is to provide planning/DC staff with the knowledge and understanding needed to make informed decisions regarding tree retention, protection, removal and replacement within the context of BS5837: 2005 Trees in relation to construction. Aspects covered include: landscape character assessment; tree reports; trees constraints and protection; method statements; site meetings; site supervision and inspection.

The workshop is presented by Paul Allen. Paul is an experienced arboricultural consultant, having been involved in the arboriculture and horticulture industries for over 17 years, and is fully conversant with all modern arboricultural practices.

To book a place on either workshop, you can download a PDF leaflet/booking form via the links above and return it to us. To reserve a place provisionally you can telephone Shelagh Pooley or use our online provisional bookings facility.


The end of February marked 10 years with the company for TRA's Administrator, Cheryl Howarth. Her role involves maintaining training and publicity material as well as handling the company's day to day accounts and purchasing functions.

Looking back on her time with TRA, Cheryl says "The last 10 years spent here have certainly flown past. I have found it an interesting and enjoyable experience, beign part of a developing and expanding company. Things are certainly very different from when I first arrived."

As part of her development with the company Cheryl will be taking on a greater role within the marketing function over the next 12 months, getting more involved in the preparation of publicity material, editing of the website etc.


Details are now available of the latest TRA Conference for Planning Support Staff taking place in London on Tuesday 29 April 2008.

This event has been extremely popular in recent years and early booking is strongly recommended.

Publicity leaflets are currently being circulated by post or email to our usual mailing contacts. Details of date, venue, price etc can be found on our website and you can also download a PDF leaflet/booking form.


The recently published Planning Advisory Service (PAS) case study "A Stitch in Time: Managing Planning Enforcement" highlights the positive contribution of TRA's Certificated course in Planning Enforcement.

The certificated programme which is run by TRA in conjunction with and accredited by the University of Cambridge covers a wide range of enforcement topics and provides a thorough learning experience and a well respected professional qualification for those who successfully complete the course. The course has been running since 1996 and 75 people have so far been awarded the certificate. More than 200 other students have attended one or more of the modules, either as one-off CPD opportunities or as part of their progress towards achieving the certificate. PAS' acknowledgement of the course is a well-earned endorsement of the success the course has had in raising the standard of enforcement services.


Please note that the TRA Enforcement Forum originally scheduled for 3 April in Warrington will now take place on Thursday 15 May. Details of speakers and topics will be available very soon.

This is always a very popular event and for those of you who like to attend every year it is possible to reserve places now - please contact Shelagh Pooley.


TRA has recently handed over online Development Control Procedure Guides to Tynedale District Council and Broxtowe Borough Council. These are comprehensive Guides, covering all aspects of Development Control procedures, from pre-application discussion through to appeals and enforcement, including all the procedures associated with Committee involvement. From the date of handover, local staff can amend, update or add to the Guide as they wish and when they wish.

In Tynedale, establishment of the Procedure Guide has been reinforced by advice and training on how to make the best use of the Guide as part of a more general framework of procedure management, and is being followed by a staff training package related to 1APP, the new validation requirements and Committee report writing. TRA has previously conducted two major reviews of planning procedures in Tynedale, providing a firm base for the development of the Procedure Guide. The Tynedale assignment was handled by Trevor Roberts and Senior Associate Vivien Green.

In Broxtowe, development of the Procedure Guide followed an in-depth review of procedures carried out during the second half of 2007. The Broxtowe assignment was handled by Senior Associates Lee Prebble, Julie Carpenter and Mike Muston.

Basic details of TRA's DC Review and Procedure Guide service can be found on our website, including a link to a demonstration version of the Guide and details of previous clients. A more detailed brochure is also available on request. Please contact Penny O'Shea for further information, without obligation.


The Secretary of State has recently granted permission for the Heysham to M6 Link Road in Lancashire. The scheme, which was being promoted by Lancashire County Council was called-in and an inquiry held in 2007. Somewhat unusually, both the application and the inquiry were handled under the Planning Acts and the responsible Secretary of State was for Communities and Local Government and not Transport.

TRA were able to assist the County Council by providing a bespoke 2-day training workshop on the planning and procedural aspects of the inquiry. The workshop, delivered by Senior Associates David Kaiserman and Ian Kinloch, involved of a mixture of presentation, discussion and exercises, including a half-day mock inquiry.

TRA offers a variety of training courses for Inquiries/Examinations which can be delivered on an in-house basis. If you would like to know more please visit our website or contact Suzanne Waldram.


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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