ENews Issue - 28 October 2008

ENews - October 2008

Shrinking budgets? Make the most of them with TRA - 28/10/08

We all know that when money is tight, one of the first things to be hit in a local authority is the training budget. But staff training and development is essential for organisations wishing to continually improve their services and to retain their employees; it should be seen as an investment and neglecting it can lead to major problems in the future.

At TRA, we have always offered high quality, practically oriented training at competitive prices and we pride ourselves on offering value for money. Below is a sample of prices (per person) for 2009 training events available for planning and development staff.

TRA Professional Workshop

Standard price


Discounted price* £177 TRA Professional Update/Conference

Standard price


Discounted price* £132 TRA In-house workshop

Standard one-day workshop from as little as


RTPI Conference

Non-member price


Member price £349 UWE Short Course Standard price £285 (no VAT)

* a 15% discount is available when booking six or more places at the same time across any number of events.

As you can see, TRA workshops are the least expensive and (we believe) the best quality events around. If you have attended our events in the past you will already be aware of this and we hope you will continue to support our training programmes. If you haven't used TRA for training before, then why not give us a try?

Expansion of urban design training - 28/10/08

TRA has been designing and delivering urban design training for planning officers and Committee members in England, Scotland and Wales for more than 10 years and we are aware of a growing demand for this kind of training for those involved in planning, regeneration and housing.

Local authorities are being encouraged by government to focus on, and take greater responsibility for, urban regeneration and housing developments in their areas but not everyone involved has the design-related skills and experience that would enable them to input fully to the initiatives and development projects their Councils are involved in.

In response, we have recently expanded our portfolio of training in urban design both by increasing the number of topics on offer and by making it accessible to a wider audience. Urban design cuts across several local authority disciplines (planning, architecture, landscape architecture, property, urban regeneration, town centre management, tourism, highways and transport etc). So, as well as our inter-authority workshops which are primarily, though not exclusively, aimed at planning practitioners, we can offer a number of workshops which can be delivered on an in-house basis, providing an opportunity for authorities to involve staff from several departments if they so choose. We will also be establishing an annual TRA Urban Design Conference, beginning in 2009, which will be open to any and all practitioners with an interest in urban design and regeneration.

Further details of our urban design training can be found on our website.

New TRA/POS guidance notes on EIA and Planning & Climate Change - 28/10/08

The Development Management Practice Project is an action learning project, established by the Planning Officers' Society and TRA, and involving 16 local planning authorities from across England. The output of the project, which is now in its second year, is a series of Best Practice Guidance Notes to assist those involved in development management. The Guidance Notes focus on particular areas of practice where there is currently little in the way of formal guidance as to what constitutes best practice.

Two new Guidance Notes have recently been published and you can download these now free of charge:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment: screening and scoping
  • Planning and Climate Change

All the previous Guidance Notes can also be downloaded via the TRA website. Topics already covered include:

  • Public Speaking in Planning Committees

  • Pre and Post Decision Amendments

  • Councillor involvement in pre-application discussions

  • Application Validation, Registration and Digital Records

  • Towards Proactive Enforcement.

Additional guidance notes on Consultations and Handling Planning Information are currently being prepared and will be available shortly.

Expert conference organisation service available to public sector organisations - 24/10/08

As a reader of ENews you will already know that TRA has been successfully organising its own conferences and training events for the public sector for many years. Now, through our Conference Organisation service, all the skills, knowledge and experience we have gained during this time are being put at the disposal of other organisations.

Many public sector organisations, agencies and professional bodies wish to run conferences or similar events but often do not have available to them "in-house" the sort of resources that TRA has. In such circumstances, TRA can offer specialist support to complement and supplement the organisation's own commitment to the event and basically take away the administrative and logistical hassle. This leaves the client organisation free to concentrate on the professional, technical or promotional aspects - which is the bit they are most interested in after all.

We can organise lots of different sorts of events, from 1-day events for limited numbers to large residential conferences lasting several days. The uncertainty and commerical risk that comes with organising conferences can be very off-putting to public sector clients so we offer a range of financial arrangements including "no cost/no risk" options.

Details of the service we can provide are on our website and include a more detailed PDF flier for download.

If you are a member of a group or organisation (big or small, formal or not-so-formal) and you would like to organise a conference or event please feel free to contact us without obligation.

Trevor Roberts addresses Councillors' conferences - 20/10/08

Trevor Roberts has recently given presentations at two major conferences for Councillors.

The East of England Region of the RTPI held its annual conference for councillors at Homerton College, Cambridge on 14 October. It was attended by about 60 councillors (including a few Parish Councillors) from the Eastern Region - Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. He gave an illustrated talk on "Local Vision - the role of councillors". This emphasised the vital role of councillors involved in planning in developing, retaining and defending a long term vision for the evolution of their locality. He stressed that all strategic policies (eg Green Belt, protection of rural areas, protecting town centre viability, brownfield site development) rely for their implementation on countless decisions taken locally, often controversial. "It's just this once" is the death of policy. But planning is only effective over a long time, 20 years or more, not a popular idea in these days of customer care and perf ormance management. His message to them for longer term vision? …. Stay alive…and get re-elected. So they have to make long term sustainable thinking politically popular.

The RTPI Politicians in Planning national conference in Manchester took place a few days earlier at the Manchester Business School, attended by over 100 councillors from throughout England and Wales. This was initially addressed by Hazel Blears among others - see her speech on the CLG website. Trevor gave one of a series of specialist parallel sessions, and opted to use this as an opportunity to present a review of officer delegation arrangements. Because of its detailed reviews of development control procedures, TRA has become something of an expert on the details of these schemes, which are frequently complicated, incomprehensible, inadequate, misunderstood and misapplied (with potentially very tricky consequences). Despite the anoraky nature of the topic (Trevor cunningly calculated that nobody would come when faced with alternative attractions from the likes of the Planni ng Advisory Service), the session was well attended by councillors keenly interested in this topic, on which their accountability and their officer/member relationships depend. Response was especially positive - the RTPI evaluation slips indicated a "100% score ie everyone rated the session as "good/excellent".

New package of TRA services for planning obligations and agreements - 17/10/08

A few months ago we announced that TRA was developing a new package of training and consultancy services relating to Planning Agreements and Obligations (s106 & s75), aimed at improving understanding, application and management of this tricky aspect of the planning system.

At the time, we gave you a sneak preview of what would be included and we are pleased to say that further details, including a downloadable PDF flier, are now available on our website.

Included in the package is a new series of training workshops, running in a number of venues during 2009, and covering:

  • An introduction to planning obligations and agreements
  • Effective monitoring of planning agreements
  • Financial appraisal for planning, development and regeneration staff.

These workshop are also available for delivery on an in-house basis for individual authorities, along with two further sessions available exclusively in-house.

Other training options available include two annual Forums (one in London and one in Manchester), training for Councillors, staff from "beneficiary" departments, agents and developers.

The consultancy services being offered include:

  • procedure reviews and specifications relating to s106/s75 agreements
  • a highly specialist facilitation consultancy service for parties involved in discussions about significant applications where planning agreements/obligations are involved.

New workshops for Key Councillors involved in Planning - 07/10/08

Further to the recent announcement of our new series of 2-day workshops for Key Councillors involved in Planning/Development Control, the first one of which is due to run in December 2008, dates have now been set for a further three to run throughout 2009. They are:

  • Securing Community and Infrastructure Funding through Planning Agreements and related mechanisms

    Cambridge - 12 & 13 March 2009 and York - 22 & 23 October 2009
  • Effective Planning Enforcement and Compliance

    York - 27 & 28 April 2009
    and Cambridge - 29 & 30 October 2009
  • The Interface between Cabinet/Executive, the Planning Committee and the Planning System

    York - 18 & 19 May 2009 and Cambridge - 23 & 24 November 2009

An extra date has been set for the first workshop 'Good Practice for Planning/Development Control Committees' already running in York on 8 & 9 December 2008 - this will also now be running in Cambridge on 8 & 9 June 2009.

Each workshop will follow the popular format already established ie a mid-afternoon start on Day 1, dinner and an evening workshop session, an overnight stay, and a mid-afternoon finish on Day 2; to be run once at each of the venues, both of which have proved to be excellent for this kind of event.

Further details of all these workshops can be found on our website by following the links above. Also available on the website is a leaflet/booking form for each event in a pdf format which can be downloaded should you wish to book on any of these events. Alternatively, provisional bookings can be made by telephone or via the provisional bookings page of our website.

TRA planning training programme - 2009 dates now available - 03/10/08

TRA's 2009 programme of training for planning and development practitioners in England and Wales has now been finalised and the details are available for viewing on our website via the above link. The programme includes workshops on three brand new topics:

  • Housing Design and Layout
  • Design Policy
  • Sustainable Construction.

If you are on our publicity circulation list you will receive details of the 2009 programme automatically. If you're not yet on the list but would like to receive details you can sign-up now. In the meantime you can download a list of dates and venues in the form of our handy programme summary.

Individual leaflets/booking forms for each event will be available via the website 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 (to gain your 15% block booking discount). As always, you can also reserve places provisionally by giving us a call or by using the provisional bookings facility on our website.

Updates from Madingley graduates: Steve Hill - 03/10/08

In the second of our new series of career updates provided by graduates of the TRA/University of Cambridge certificated courses, we catch up with Steve Hill who successfully completed the Management Concepts and Skills programme back in 2001.

"I first started on the certificated course when I was a Principal Planning Officer at Walsall MBC, with grand pretensions to one day lead a team of planners. I was mid-way through the course when the opportunity to join Cannock Chase DC as Team Leader for DC and Enforcement arose and not only did my training assist in securing the promotion, they also kindly agreed to fund the remainder of the certificate for me.

In 2002 (having completed the course) I joined Lichfield DC as Development Control Manager, responsible for a staff of 20, including enforcement. My sessions at Madingley definitely helped me both answer the interview questions on management and tackle the real live issues once I was in post. Lichfield was at the time struggling in terms of DC performance and over the next year or two I drew on every available piece of learning and development to help improve performance and move to a service that was top performing - it even led to a specific letter from the then Planning and Housing Minister, Keith Hill (no relation) congratulating us on our improvement! Whilst at Lichfield I gained promotion in 2004 to the post of Development Executive, responsible for DC, Building Control and Conservation and Design. By this stage I was encouraging and enabling a number of my colleagues to enrol on the Certificated Course as I'd certainly experienced the benefits first hand .

I am now with the Advisory Team for Large Applications (since March this year) and thoroughly enjoy the role of assisting local authorities in getting the best out of major proposals. The work is extremely varied and worthwhile and gives me a chance to get stuck in again on major schemes - seeking to ultimately improve the quality of our environment. I've also been fortunate enough to return to Madingley on a couple of occasions to speak to current students on my experiences as a manager and how to put the certificate into practice. I've also chaired the national Enforcement Forum for TRA, which was great fun.

I've no doubt that the Certificate has greatly assisted me in my career and I've often fallen back on techniques learnt, not least in dealing with problem staff. Memories of summers at Madingley are still fresh in my mind and if nothing else, I now know the rules of croquet - and I'm eagerly awaiting my next invite back as a guest speaker (fingers crossed!)."

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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