ENews Issue - 29 April 2009

ENews - April 2009

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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In this issue:

  • In-house training: a cost effective option for limited budgets
  • New planning gain workshops prove popular
  • TRA cuts paper consumption in its publicity
  • Brand new Forum on Planning Agreements and Developer Contributions
  • Work on validation requirements for Lake District National Park
  • Last chance to book on workshops running in May
  • Madingley News




In-house training: a cost effective option for limited budgets - 28/04/09

Despite the recession, the past 12 months have been the busiest yet for TRA in terms of delivering in-house training for officers involved in planning and development. This is a well-established but still growing part of our business and one we are keen to promote.

Commissioning in-house training from TRA makes real economic sense at any time but especially in the current climate. Training budgets may be tight but neglecting training often proves to be short-sighted (we've seen this happen in previous recessions during our 25 years in the business). It is precisely in times like these when you really need your key resources - ie your staff - to be working effectively and efficiently.

A one-day in-house workshop can cost from as little as £88 per person and involves little if any travelling or extra time spent away from the office. Sessions can easily be organised for individual authorities or for a group of neighbouring authorities joining together.

In our experience, many of our clients book in-house training sessions after a member of staff has attended one of our advertised inter-authority events. We are therefore offering a limited number of places on two specially organised workshops at a massively discounted price, enabling you essentially to "try before you buy". For further details please see our website.

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New planning gain workshops prove popular - 27/04/09

TRA launched a brand new series of workshops for 2009, focusing on planning gain/planning obligations and agreements and the response so far has been extremely positive.

The first workshop, An Introduction to Planning Obligations and Agreements, ran last week in London. The next workshop Effective monitoring of planning agreements is running in May in York and has just two places left. Fortunately, both workshops are being repeated later in the year, in Manchester and London respectively and places are still available (see the links above for details).

The third workshop in the series, Financial appraisal for planning, development and regeneration staff, is running for the first time in London on 2 June and places are available. The workshop provides participants with an overview of development finances, an awareness of the cost and time implications of various types of planning conditions and terms in planning agreements, and an appreciation of the negotiating positions typically adopted by developers and how these can be countered through the planning process. Participants should then be able to work with the commercial sector in a more informed, confident and effective way. Further details and a booking form can be found via the above link. Provisional bookings can be made to reserve places in the usual way - by telephone or via our online provisional bo oking facility.

This series of three workshops is part of a larger range of training and consultancy services being offered by TRA in relation to planning obligations and agreements. Details of the full package are are available on our website.

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TRA cuts paper consumption in its publicity - 27/04/09

We are very pleased to report that the number of publicity leaflets TRA printed and circulated by post over the past 12 months (April 2008 - March 2009) is down by 23% compared with the previous 12 months. The reduction is mainly due to the continuing switch-over of our publicity circulation from postal mailshots to e-mailshots. As well as saving on paper for leaflets it also reduces our use of letterheads and envelopes. With thousands of contacts on our database, this clearly has the potential to have a dramatic impact on our paper consumption.

Our switch to e-publicity first began in 2007, although with an admittedly slow start as people got used to the idea. Over the past 12 months we have promoted the initiative much more heavily and we are pleased to say that very many of our contacts have responded positively and are now receiving material from us by email. Reducing the amount of publicity we send out by post is a key objective in our Environmental Management System. It also makes good economic sense and it means that you can receive our information direct to your inbox, rather than waiting for it to be circulated around the office.

If you are still receiving our mailshots by post, we would strongly urge you to sign-up for e-publicity now. The easiest way to do this is to complete our mailing list sign-up form. The sign-up form also gives you the opportunity to choose the broad topic areas you are interested in.

If you do not currently receive our publicity and would like to do so you can use the same form to sign-up. We won't bombard you with emails and we will not pass on your information to anyone else. Details of our privacy policy are on the sign-up form.

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Brand new Forum on Planning Agreements and Developer Contributions - 24/04/09

TRA have been running successful and popular "Forums" for many years on subjects such as Planning Enforcement and Planning Support, and are now introducing similar events on new topics including this one on Planning Agreements and Developer Contributions, taking place in Manchester on 10 June 2009.

It is intended that this new Forum will become the main gathering in England and Wales for professionals in the public and private sectors with a specific interest in the framework of developer contributions - relating to s106 agreements and obligations, the new Community Infrastructure Levy, developer contributions and development finance, and the management of the application process in relation to all these factors.

The general theme of the Forum is to improve awareness of best practice in handling developer contributions in the evolving context. We are fortunate to have a very experienced panel of contributors who are able to bring a variety of perspectives to the Forum:

  • LEONORA ROZEE, Deputy Chief Executive, The Planning Inspectorate
  • GARRY PAYNE, Director of Planning and Regeneration, Wyre Borough Council
  • STEPHEN HILL, Senior Planning Manager with ATLAS
  • KATY PHILLIPS, Planning Obligations Officer, City of London Corporation
  • SHARON BROWN, Major Developments Manager, Cambridge City Council
  • FRANK ORR, Solicitor with Dickinson Dees
  • CHRIS WEETMAN, Senior Planning Consultant, Trevor Roberts Associates.

Should you be interested in attending the Forum a leaflet/booking form can be downloaded from our website. Provisional bookings can be made by telephone or via the provisional bookings page of the website if you are unable to make a firm booking straight away.

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Work on validation requirements for Lake District National Park - 24/04/09

TRA has just completed a pioneering assignment, commissioned by the Lake District National Park Authority. It had two related elements:

  • a detailed specification of all procedures related to receipt, validation and registration of planning applications etc
  • a systematic review of the information which should be submitted with an application prior to it being regarded as valid and being registered, leading to a justified framework for requiring information of this nature.

The first element of the assignment was essentially similar to procedure specifications TRA has carried out for many authorities. It was aimed at ensuring efficiency, consistency and procedural rectitude in this vital part of the development management process. The second element was both novel and challenging. We and the authority believe it is the first time ever that this aspect of the process has been put so precisely under the microscope.

The new validation regime specifically allows local authorities to require information to be provided along with an application before it is registered and the "clock starts to tick". It is in the interests of the authority and the applicant that key information is provided in this way; but the requirements have to be clearly set out, justified and reasonable. If information requirements are not properly prescribed, then authorities will be forced into frequent post-registration information requests, slowing down their monitored performance; unreasonable requests will result in information overload and unnecessary expense to the applicant; and unclear specification will give the worst of both worlds. Most authorities have adopted as a short term measure the "national list of local requirements". Some are simply using the "national" requirements as the basis for validation. Both approaches are unsatisfactory mechanisms, generating inefficiency and confusion.

The LDNPA is attempting to focus its requirements very specifically to its precise and, in some respects, unique information needs. TRA's recommended framework for doing this (based on a rigorous analysis of the legal requirements and particular local circumstances) is now being developed in detail by the authority, with particular reference to the policy context and the information databases at its disposal.

For many years, TRA has led the way in analysing and assessing the whole development management process - which clearly covers much more than just the determination of submitted applications. We are now building on this latest work for the LDNPA to provide a new service whereby we will be able to do any or all of the following:

  • review validation information requirements and recommend a framework (as we have done with the LDNPA) which the client authority can follow up and develop
  • develop this framework into a series of precise criteria and specifications which the authority should then be able to set up on is website
  • subject to some reasonably straightforward technical considerations, produce a system of criteria and specifications which, once approved by the authority, can be simply transferred into the authority's own website where it will operate with all appropriate internal and external links, generating a precise set of information required to accompany each application.

If you would like further information about TRA's new service relating to validation information requirements, or any of our other procedural consultancy services, please contact Penny O'Shea (penny@tra-ltd.co.uk or 01204 385678) without obligation.

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Last chance to book on workshops running in May - 23/04/09

Some of our workshops due to take place in May in both our England and Scotland programmes still have places available for anybody who is interested in attending. The workshops are:

Being Effective at Enforcement Inquiries (Bristol, 12 May) - Enforcement appeals (s174) are a complex and often misunderstood element of the planning process. This recently developed workshop focuses on enforcement appeal evidence and helps participants to better prepare for an Inquiry and in turn to present their evidence to best effect.

The Basics of Planning (Edinburgh, 13 May 2009) - This practical workshop is designed as an introduction to the planning process for enforcement, administrative and technical staff in LPAs and support staff working in private practice. In light of the recent changes in Development Management which have already taken place in Scotland and the significant amount due to come into effect on 3 August 2009, this workshop will also be looking at how these changes will affect staff working in planning and the new procedures they must follow.

Design Policy: making the most of the opportunity (Edinburgh) 13 May 2009 - Although there is a high level of support for design quality in new development and emphasis is placed on the importance of design considerations when determining planning applications, local and national policy can sometimes be inadequate or poorly applied. This brand new workshop aims to help officers better understand and prepare design policy and so ensure that design is at the heart of all planning decisions.

Appearing at Hearings (London, 21 May) - In recent years, about a fifth of all appeals have been decided on the basis of Hearings. It has become essential for all development planners (and other practitioners) to become familiar with the style and format of this important appeal mechanism. This highly practical workshop, which includes a mock Hearing exercise, is designed to improve both preparation and presentational skills, and enhance the overall confidence of those involoved.

As with all our Professional workshops, these are run by experiences practitioner presenters (rather than academics), they incorporate practical exercises and discussion rather than a straight forward lecture format, and at just over £200 plus VAT still represent excellent value for money.

Booking forms are available to be downloaded from our website via the above links. Alternatively, provisional bookings can be made by telephone or via the provisional bookings page of the website. A block booking discount of 15% is available for those booking 6 or more places on any number of events across the 2009 programme. A downloadable block booking form is also available on the website, along with details of all the other workshops available in both the England and Scotland programmes.

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Madingley News - 21/04/09

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.

We are pleased to offer our congratulations to Alan Goodison, Planning Contravention Officer with Kent County Council, who was awarded Technical Membership of the RTPI earlier this year. Alan successfully completed the Planning Enforcement certificated programme at Madingley between 2004 and 2006 and his certificate contributed towards Technical Membership. Alan expressed his gratitude to Course Tutor, Vivien Green - "As you were so instrumental in this achievement I want to thank you very much for all your support... I know it would not have been possible without your encouragement."

For further details of Technical Membership and the routes to achieving it see the RTPI website.

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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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