ENews Issue - 22 August 2008

ENews - August 2008

Trevor Roberts to retire - 22/08/08

Trevor Roberts has recently announced his intention to retire at the end of June 2009. Since stepping down as Principal Director in 2004, Trevor has been TRA's Consultant Director and he will continue in this role in his final year with the company. His retirement has been carefully planned over the last few years and the structure of the company has evolved to facilitate his departure, shortly after he turns 65.

Those of you who have met him may at first be a bit sceptical about this - "Trevor retiring? Surely not!". But after so many years of hard work he is definitely looking forward to leaving the hard slog to the rest of us and to concentrating on other things.

"I have been working non-stop for over 40 years, the last 25 in TRA, all of it interesting and stimulating. While tempting to just carry on or phase out gradually, I decided it is better to make a firm break, move on and do other things with the rest of my life. TRA is in capable hands, a new generation is emerging, its prosperity is assured. It is now time for me to look to my family, home, community and the world beyond."

Beyond 2009, Trevor will retain his shareholding in the company and remain on the Board of Directors. Penny O'Shea will continue as Principal Director, a position she has held since 2004.

Bespoke workshops developed for Welsh Councillors - 22/08/08

TRA has recently developed and delivered two half-day bespoke training workshops for members of Powys County Council. The workshops covered specific issues of particular concern to the authority.

The first session, delivered in June, focused on Planning for Wind Farms. It explained the context for wind farm technology; outlined the relevant policy framework in Wales; highlighted the planning considerations for development control; and provided an opportunity to discuss the role of members in the decision-making process.

The second session, which focused on Planning and Supermarkets, was delivered in July and outlined the development of retail planning policy in the UK and Wales; looked at the current framework for Wales and its implications for Powys in particular; highlighted the main issues for planning in relation to large supermarkets; and again, considered the role of members in the decision-making process.

As well as our extremely popular sessions, A Briefing on Planning for Councillors and The Role of Councillors in Planning: propriety and good practice, we also offer a wide range of Briefings on Specific Aspects of Planning. There are lots of topics to choose from based on sessions we have delivered previously for other authorities and we are also happy to consider developing brand new bespoke workshops, as was the case with the Powys workshops.

If you would like to discuss your requirements with regard to Councillor training, or find out more about any of the workshops mentioned, please contact Suzanne Waldram.

Ian Bentley flying high - 21/08/08

Those of you who have been watching Andrew Marr's fascinating new series "Britain from Above", may have spotted Ian Bentley, Professor of Urban Design at Oxford Brookes University and one of TRA's presenters, in last Sunday's episode.

Ian accompanied Marr in a light aircraft above Oxford, to explain the development of the city, from the influence of the world-famous university to the way in which the shape of today's Oxford is very much dictated by water.

The series concludes this Sunday (BBC1 9pm) and there is a really interesting section on the BBC website to accompany the series.

International award for Rachel Bland - 21/08/08

Rachel Bland, Planning and Affordable Housing Officer at South Hams DC and one of TRA's workshop presenters, has been awarded the George Pepler International Award for planners under 30. With her award she is setting out to investigate what role, if any, Community Land Trusts (CLTs) can play in developing rural affordable housing.

There are many questions surrounding CLTs in terms of how they are funded and how they can deliver affordable housing. Rachel said in her submission that "most planners know little if anything about CLTs and those that do, find the accompanying technical, legal and financial information very complex to say the least. This results in what appears to be some reluctance amongst practitioners to embrace CLT concepts".

Rachel plans to visit Canada to investigate the delivery of affordable housing through longer established Community Land Trusts. Her work will sit alongside other initiatives including the government's review of the rural economy and affordable housing which is looking at the merits of using CLTs as a model.

Rachel currently delivers TRA's workshop on Writing Effective Policies in the LDF and co-presents our Briefing on Planning for Housing Associations.

Excellent feedback on Cumbria DC Good Practice Guide - 21/08/08

Back in May, we told you about a Development Control Good Practice Guide which had been commissioned jointly by all the planning authorities in Cumbria. TRA produced the Guide which set out in detail the procedures and practice which authorities should aspire to (or avoid!), and was designed to serve as a template against which authorities could assess their own services. The Guide reflects TRA's experience of good practice in planning authorities throughout the country, but is specifically related to issues in Cumbria.

Feedback on the Guide from the authorities involved has been really positive. Graham Hale, Principal Planning Officer at Cumbria County Council, who co-ordinated the assignment on behalf of the authorities, says that "The TRA Development Control Good Practice Guide for Cumbria has provided an excellent, helpful, practical and informative view about how we should deal with development control matters in the county."

Details of TRA's procedural review services including Reviews of specific aspects of planning/DC and DC Procedure Reviews and Procedure Guides are available on our website. If you would like any information or to discuss your requirements in detail please feel free to contact Penny O'Shea without obligation.

Updates from Madingley graduates: Darren Ridley - 20/08/08

In the first of a new series of career updates provided by graduates of the TRA/University of Cambridge certificated courses, we catch up with Darren Ridley who successfully completed the Planning Enforcement programme back in 2002.

"I started TRA's planning enforcement course shortly after Newcastle upon Tyne City Council appointed me as a planning enforcement officer in 1998. I completed the four modules over a four-year period to help spread the costs to my employer and obtained the Certificate in Planning Enforcement in 2002.

Half way through the course, I was promoted to Senior Planning Enforcement Officer. In 2003, after completing the course, I was promoted to Monitoring and Enforcement Team Leader when responsibility for monitoring S106 legal agreements was given to the planning enforcement team which I led. I continued studying and the Institute of Leadership and Management have since awarded me a certificate in management and I have been elected to the Institute as a full member.

Last year, was a pivotal point in my career. I was very proud when Newcastle's monitoring and enforcement team featured in the Planning Advisory Service publication, "a stitch in time: managing planning enforcement", regarding the planning enforcement software we had developed in-house to run alongside our corporate system. I was honoured to be elected to the Management Committee of the National Association of Planning Enforcement Officers on which I represent the North East of England. I was also pleased to obtain Technical Membership of the RTPI.

Having had ten fantastic years at Newcastle, where I gained invaluable experience in planning enforcement, legal agreement monitoring and leadership, I felt it was time for a new challenge. The year ended with me applying to the Lake District National Park Authority for the post of Team Leader in the Compliance team of the Development Management service. I was excited by the prospect of working with their excellent team of Compliance Planners whose enforcement and compliance practices I consider innovative. I was delighted when the authority asked me to join the team because senior posts have historically been held by qualified Town Planners. I moved to the Lakes and began working for the authority in February and am currently enjoying the beautiful scenery and the challenges of the new post."

CLG Committee endorses TRA position on the role of Councillors - 12/08/08

The CLG Committee looking into Labour Shortage and Skills Gaps in Planning has recently published its final report. TRA made a number of responses to the questions asked by the Committee about officer training and the skills of Councillors. Given that TRA is the country's largest provider of Councillor training it is perhaps not surprising that the Committee was particularly interested in what we had to say on the role of Councillors and the wider principle of democratic accountability. Indeed, the Committee noted that TRA had "best grasped the essential importance of the principle of democratic accountability" when we stated that:

"The role of the planning officer is to provide an objective analysis of the issues in a clear and succinct way, so that the decision maker can make an informed decision…the Councillor needs to be able to have an appreciation of what is proposed but also be able to ask difficult questions in order to test the robustness of the recommendation…The system rests on the basis that the technical specialist can be challenged by a non-specialist, so that there are checks and balances and that the decisions being made reflect the needs and desires of the wider community."

The Committee concluded that whilst Councillors should be as well informed as they can be, it did not accept that compulsory training was either essential or necessary. The full report can be read on the House of Commons website.

Manchester Conference for Planning Support Staff - details announced - 11/08/08

Details are now available of the latest TRA Conference for Planning Support Staff taking place in Manchester on Tuesday 30 September 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.

Latest on re-launch of Planning Administrators' Network - 07/08/08

Back in June, we announced that the Planning Administrators' Network (PAN) was about to undergo a re-launch. As part of the preparations for the re-launch, we have since circulated a short questionnaire to all PAN members to get an idea of their interests and expectations of the Network in order to help us develop the discussion groups to better meet their needs. Thanks very much to all those who responded to the questionnaire; your input is much appreciated.

It was clear from the responses to the questionnaire that there is an appetite for greater discussion on the Network, despite everyone being very busy in their jobs. Several specific topics were identified and we will be focusing on these initially.

Beginning on Monday 11 August, we will be regularly introducing new topics for discussion via the Network forums. Initially, this is likely to cover several new topics each week. If you are already a member of PAN, we do hope that you will regularly log on to the Network and join in with any of the discussions that are of interest to you. If you haven't yet joined but would like to, just visit the PAN website and register (registration is free and very simple). As one respondent to the questionnaire put it "the more people online at any one time, the better the Network performs".

October Enforcement Forum - details now available - 04/08/08

Details are now available for the latest 'Forum on Enforcement' taking place in Warrington on 16 October 2008.

This is always a very popular event and lots of people have already made advance bookings. Prompt booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.

Publicity leaflets are currently being circulated by both e-mail and post to our usual mailing contacts. Details of price/venue etc are available on the website, where there is also a leaflet/booking form available to be downloaded in a pdf format.

New workshops for Planning Chairs and Portfolio Holders - 24/07/08

Following the success of our Workshop for Planning Commitee Chairs and Portfolio Holders which has been running for the last couple of years, we have decided to develop additional workshops to form a series of sessions for Planning Chairs and Portfolio Holders focusing on key topics of concern.

The three workshops planned so far will focus on:

  • Planning Committee procedures and protocols
  • the interface between the Planning Committee and the Cabinet
  • planning obligations.

The workshop will follow the popular format established with the previous workshop ie a mid-afternoon start on Day 1, dinner and evening workshop session, an overnight stay, and a mid-afternoon finish on Day 2. Initially, each workshop will be run twice, once at the Monkbar Hotel in York and once at Madingley Hall, Cambridge; both excellent venues for this kind of event. Dates will be announced shortly.

If you would like to make sure you receive details of these new workshops as soon as they are available please let us know at promotion@tra-ltd.co.uk.

Workshops for Planning and Development Staff - 08/07/08

The TRA 2008 training programme of workshops is currently taking a break whilst everyone is enjoying their summer hols. Looking ahead to when the programme re-commences in the Autumn, there are still places available on some of the workshops due to take place in October. These include:

  • The Procurement and Management of Consultants - 2 October, Manchester

This comprehensive workshop is ideal for local authority officers who are required to engage consultants to carry out work for their authority, and includes useful advice and information on how to construct a brief, how to select and appoint the most appropriate consultant and how to manage contracts in order to obtain a timely and value for money outcome.

  • Writing Effective Policies in the Local Development Framework - 22 October, York

This workshop is aimed at all planning staff involved in writing, editing, monitoring and reviewing policies at local and regional levels. It covers the process of policy making from initial drafts, through consultations, changes and editing, to the examination process and the importance of monitoring and review.

  • Sustainability and the Planning Process - 23 October, York

Sustainable development underpins Government planning policies and its principles must be incorporated into all planning policy documents, as well as the process of development management. This workshop provides an introduction to sustainability as a concept from the global to the local level, and will explain the Government's requirements and discuss the role of sustainability in decision making.

If you would like to reserve places on any of these workshops, provisional bookings can be made by telephone or via our online provisional booking facility. Firm bookings can be made by completing and returning the appropriate booking form.

Award ceremony for Madingley graduates - 07/07/08

A number of students who have successfully completed one of TRA's certificated courses at Cambridge University returned to Madingley Hall in late June to attend an awards ceremony.

Two students were there to receive the Certificate of Continuing Education in Planning Enforcement and four were being awarded the Certificate of Continuing Education in Management Concepts and Skills in Planning.

All the students were able to bring along family members or friends who had supported them during their studies, to say thank you and to share the celebrations with them. Pictured below left with their Certificates in Enforcement are Debbie Threlfall (Lancaster City Council) and Mark Lane (Herefordshire Council). Below right from the Management programme are Alison Young (East Herts DC), Anne Shorland (East Lindsey DC), Ruth Sainsbury (Broadland DC) and David Lewis (Tendring DC).

TRA tutors Vivien Green and Trevor Roberts were also at the ceremony to see their students receive their hard-earned certificates. It is a considerable achievement and we send our congratulations to them all.

Contact Information

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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