ENews Issue - 30 January 2009

ENews - January 2009 - news

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.

View our contact Information or subscription information.

In this issue:

  • Forum on Enforcement - details available
  • Sign up for TRA's management e-bulletin
  • Awards for latest Madingley graduates
  • TRA/POS Guidance Notes on Consultations and Handling Planning Information
  • Suzanne says goodbye
  • Securing Community & Infrastructure Funding - workshop for Councillors
  • Review of Forest Heath's DC service by TRA
  • A new arrival for presenter Rachel
  • Confusion over fees for conditions




Forum on Enforcement - details available - 30/01/09

Details are now available of our next Forum on Enforcement taking place in Warrington on 24 March 2009. Details are currently being circulated to our usual mailing contacts and they can also be found on our website, where you can download a PDF leaflet/booking form.

To mark the 25th Anniversary of TRA and the 20th Anniversary of this particular event, the Forum will be an "all-TRA affair" with speakers drawn from our extensive team of staff, presenters and associates. As well as providing another excellent Forum, we wanted to make the event an opportunity to celebrate TRA's commitment to training for planning enforcement.

This forum will also be the last one before Trevor Roberts retires in June 2009 and he will be making a farewell appearance. Trevor has personally championed the role of enforcement staff for many years, pioneering the provision of training specifically aimed at Enforcement Officers, including this Forum and the certificated course run in conjunction with the University of Cambridge. Trevor has always said that you need to be around for at least 25 years in planning to see the benefit of any plans and policies and his final presentation, after 25 with TRA, will focus on the long-term context of enforcement and why it must survive.

This is always a very popular event so early booking is advised. If you would like to reserve a place provisionally to make sure you don't miss out you can do so by telephone or using the provisional bookings facility on our website.

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Sign up for TRA's management e-bulletin - 29/01/09

Managing in Changing Times is TRA's new quarterly e-bulletin aimed at those involved in local government management, in any discipline. It will also be of interest to those working at any level who are generally interested in management issues.

As trainers and consultants, the TRA team spends a great deal of time working in local authorities and we see the many issues facing local government and the relationship between councils and central government. We are also acutely aware of the pressures on managers to:

  • improve performance, efficiency and customer relations
  • manage people and other resources
  • respond to political and economic pressures
  • recruit, develop and retain staff, and
  • manage constant change.

The aim of the e-bulletin is to share some of our knowledge and experience in this area; update you on what's happening in the world of local government management; and hopefully get some contributions and feedback from readers themselves who are keen to share their own thoughts and experiences.

The bulletin is circulated quarterly and the next issue is due out at the end of February. If you would like to sign up to receive it, you just need to submit your email address via this online form. (You can of course unsubscribe at any time.)

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Awards for latest Madingley graduates - 24/01/09

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

Three students were there to receive the Certificate of Continuing Education in Planning Enforcement and five were being awarded the Certificate of Continuing Education in Management Concepts and Skills in Planning. Students were able to bring along family members or partners 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 Management are Claire Tomalin (Essex CC), Virginie Caujolle-Pradenc (City of London), Richard Greaves (Essex CC), Melanie Charalambous (City of London) and Clare Smith (Elmbridge BC). Below right from the Enforcement programme are Andy Smith (East Cambridgeshire DC) and Pippa Winson and Matt Clarey (both King's Lynn and West Norfolk 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.

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TRA/POS Guidance Notes on Consultations and Handling Planning Information - 23/01/09

The final two Guidance Notes from the TRA/POS Development Management Practice Project are now available for download:

  • Guidance Note 8: Consultations
  • Guidance Note 9: Handling Planning Information

This action learning project was established by the Planning Officers' Society and TRA and involved 16 local planning authorities from across England. The project, which ran for two years, has now been completed. The output of the project 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.

All the previous Guidance Notes can also be downloaded via the TRA website. Topics 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

EIA: Screening and Scoping Opinions

Planning and Climate Change.

TRA would like to extend its thanks to all the authorities who were involved in the project and contributed to its success.

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Suzanne says goodbye - 22/01/09

Suzanne Waldram, who has looked after our in-house training services since April 2006, is sadly leaving us this month. Suzanne has been a real asset to TRA - her organisational skills and personality (patience and a sense of humour are absolutely essential in this job!) have ensured that the in-house training side of our business has run very smoothly and has continued to grow over the past couple of years. We are all very sorry to see her go but she is off to take up a new challenge as School Secretary at a local school for children with special needs and we wish her the very best of luck.

She promises to keep in touch with the rest of the TRA staff and wanted to say a few words to everyone else she has been in contact with during her time with us:

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with TRA and its been a pleasure working with you all, clients, presenters and associates. I will miss you and I would like to thank you for your help and support with the many in-house training sessions we have successfully delivered. I will miss the tales of good/bad hotels (you know who you are!!) and being stranded in different parts of the country when the trains/taxis don't turn up!! I would like to wish Trevor a happy retirement this year and to everyone associated with TRA, all the very best for the future".

Although Suzanne's replacement will not be in post immediately, please rest assured that the quality service you have come to expect when organising in-house training with TRA will continue.

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Securing Community & Infrastructure Funding - workshop for Councillors - 22/01/09

Following the successful running of the workshop 'Good Practice for Planning/Development Control Committees' in December, the second workshop in this series for Key Councillors, 'Securing Community and Infrastructure Funding through Planning Agreements' is due to take place on 12 & 13 March at Madingley Hall, Cambridge.

This 2-day workshop is aimed at those Key Councillors (principally Chairs, Vice-Chairs, Spokespersons and Portfolio Holders) who are trying to make the most of potential opportunities available for funding through the planning framework. Through Planning Agreements (s106) and related mechanisms, local authorities can secure a range of direct benefits and contributions towards community services and facilities. The new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is also being introduced to work alongside s106 agreements. It is clear why Councillors should be interested in these mechanisms, but it is important that they develop an understanding of both how to make the most of them and what limitations are associated with them. The workshop will allow councillors to focus on the critical aspects of successful practice, enabling them to feed this experience into their own authorites and make the most effective use of the tools available.

For those interested in attending this workshop a booking form can be downloaded from our website via the above link. Alternatively, provisional bookings can be made to secure a place by telephone or via the provisional bookings page on our website.

Details of other topics in this series can also be found on our website.

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Review of Forest Heath's DC service by TRA - 21/01/09

Forest Heath Borough Council is the latest authority to commission a Development Control Review and Procedure Guide from TRA. This particular assignment was completed earlier this month by a consultancy team consisting of Vivien Green, Stewart Glassar and Trevor Roberts.

This kind of assignment has been undertaken by TRA for more than 30 local authorities (a list of clients can be found via the link above).

The Review element of the assignment looks in detail at:

  • the authority's DC performance
  • its DC procedures, with a view to improving both efficiency and effectiveness
  • the management, staff structures and resources/capacity of the DC function.

The review covers all aspects of the DC process, from pre-application discussions, through the decision-making process, and as far as appeals and enforcement. The output of the review is a detailed written report with justified conclusions and key recommendations for change. These recommendations are extremely important and their implementation can have a significant impact on the quality, consistency and speed of development control performance.

The Procedure Guide element of the assignment involves the specification of DC procedures using the unique online system developed by TRA. The content of each Procedure Guide is bespoke to the individual authority, incorporating an optimum mixture of established local procedures and generally established good practice. The Guide is a system rather than a fixed document, accessible via a private internet site, enabling the authority's own staff to update it as appropriate at any time.

As well as full-scale reviews of this nature, we can also carry out smaller reviews, focusing on particular elements of the planning/DC process. Our most recent assigment was a review of validation requirements for Dacorum BC.

If you would like to know more about any of our procedural review services please contact Penny O'Shea for further information and a no-obligation discussion.

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A new arrival for presenter Rachel - 14/01/09

We are delighted to announce the arrival of a baby girl for TRA presenter Rachel Bland and her husband Tim. Chloe was born at home on Christmas Eve and weighed a very healthy 6lbs 13.5oz. All the family is reported to be doing well and everyone at TRA sends their best wishes.

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Confusion over fees for conditions - 06/01/09

In April last year the government introduced into the fee regulations the ability for planning authorities to levy a charge for dealing with conditions (Article 21 applications). This is also sometimes referred to as "discharging" a condition, although we feel this is a misleading term and try to avoid using it. In common with a number of other recent changes to the planning system, these new fee provisions also introduced a great deal of confusion and over the ensuing nine months we at TRA have witnessed many different approaches to this issue:

  • some authorities are now charging a fee for all requests to deal with details pursuant to a condition
  • some authorities are charging a fee but putting the money in a separate account as they are unsure as to whether the fee is legally enforceable and they may be asked to pay the monies back
  • other authorities are not charging a fee as they do not think the Regulations allow them to do so
  • and we are even aware of local authorities who will accept a fee if one is submitted but will nevertheless still deal with such submissions if a fee is not paid.

It is our opinion that despite the intention of the government to introduce into the Fee Regulations the power to levy a fee for dealing with details pursuant to a condition (Article 21 applications) this is not what the Regulations actually do. The Fees Regulations quite clearly apply fees to situations where someone requests that the development they have undertaken is in accordance with the condition or conditions ie they seek confirmation that the development as built is in accordance with the conditions. In our view, this is different to the submission details pursuant to a condition (Article 21 applications) eg for approval of a brick sample, for approval of noise abatement measures etc. Article 21 is the process for granting "consent, agreement or approval required by a condition or limitation" and is different from confirming that any such consent, agreement or approval has been given.

The accompanying Circular confuses the issue by linking the ability to levy a fee with Article 21 but the Fee Regulations themselves make no reference to Article 21. The reference to Article 21 in the Circular (which is not referred to in the legislation) is in our view misguided. Article 21 does not relate to requests for confirmation of compliance with conditions.

Our view is that authorities are not entitled to charge a fee for Article 21 applications and should take the appropriate legal advice regarding their practices if they are currently doing so. We have raised this issue with various bodies and individuals and will continue to seek clarification of this important matter. We will include any developments in future editions of ENews.

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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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