ENews Issue - 20 November 2009

ENews - November 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:

  • Congratulations to first graduates on Planning Support course
  • TRA Associates speak at NAPE Conference
  • New bursary scheme for planning support staff
  • We can help you prepare for DPD Exams
  • If you missed the latest Enforcement Forum....
  • Advance details available for Scotland 2010 training programme
  • TRA's new Forum on Planning Policy
  • Want to catch up with ENews?




Congratulations to first graduates on Planning Support course - 20/11/09

We are thrilled to announce that the first batch of students from TRA's certificated course for planning support staff have recently been awarded the Certificate in Town Planning Support. The programme began back in January 2007 and has proved extremely popular; clearly meeting a previously unmet demand for more in-depth and formalised training.

Our first four graduates are: Marianne Aitken, Business Support Manager at Babergh DC; Amy Lang, Planning Officer (previously Customer Services Assistant) at Tendring DC; Pam Armstrong, Senior Support Assistant with Gateshead MBC; and Colin Green, Senior Planning Support Officer at the City of London.

All at TRA and especially Course Tutor, Julie Carpenter, are very proud of their achievements. Julie says, "I am delighted to see the first group of students obtaining their Certificates in Planning Support. They have worked extremely hard to achieve all four modules within such a short space of time and the standard of work has been very high. Given the constantly changing legislation, the students have found the course helpful in not only making them aware of all the changes but also in understanding why they have come about. It has given them a solid basis to move forward in the future and embrace the changes."

It is clear that all four students have benefited enormously from the course, in lots of different ways:

  • Marianne - "The successful completion of the certificate enabled me to contribute more effectively and confidently as a Business Support Manager of the Development Control Department. It provided me with valuable legislative information which I was lacking, having come from a non-planning related private sector background."
  • Amy - "The content of this course was just what I was looking for and a whole lot more! It helps you to explore planning from the beginning and look at other roles and elements that you may not think about when dealing with the same administrative routines every day. It has given me so much more confidence in my abilities at work and knowledge of planning. This has led on to being successful in becoming a Planning Officer. I am now aiming to start my part time degree course in Environmental Planning next year."
  • Pam - "Far too often technical support staff languish as the cinderellas of the planning system, denied access to those legislative pillars supporting the planning regime, so readily available to our professional colleagues. I found the course demanding but thoroughly worthwhile in terms of the structural background it offers. I now act on a platform of certainty, confident that my reasoning derives from material fact."
  • Colin - "I really enjoyed the interaction with other support staff who came from a diverse range of local authorities. The course was tailored to cover a wide range of support service aspects, some of which I had never been involved with such as the LDF and the assignments that were set were designed to make you think and take you out of your comfort zone. Due to my enhanced understanding of the planning system I was able to suggest improved ways of working upon my return to the office. The course was expertly run by Julie Carpenter and Stewart Glassar in a fun, fair and firm way. I feel very privileged to be in the first group of students to achieve this award."

The next module in the programme is running in January and February 2010 and there are places available (although prompt booking is recommended). Details of this and the programme as a whole can be found on our website.

Similar certificated programmes are also available in Management Concepts and Skills in Planning and in Planning Enforcement.

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TRA Associates speak at NAPE Conference - 19/11/09

TRA Associates, Mike Hyde and Vivien Green were invited to give workshop presentations at the National Association for Planning Enforcement (NAPE) AGM and Conference at the offices of Newark and Sherwood DC earlier this month. Both are long-standing members of NAPE and are well known in the "enforcement world"; Mike previously worked as a Monitoring and Enforcement Officer in the Lake District and Loch Lomond National Parks before setting up his own consultancy and Vivien runs TRA's Certificated Course on Planning Enforcement.

Mike was asked to look at Certificates of Lawfulness, a topic on which he runs a full day's workshop in TRA's Scottish programme. Vivien was asked to take a workshop on the perennially popular topic of Advertisements, and whilst the theme for the day was "negotiation", Vivien was keen to make the point that illegal advertisements are non-negotiable: the LPA must act and act quickly. Both workshops were highly rated by participants. For those who were not able to attend, their presentations are available for download from the TRA website - Certificates of Lawfulness / Advertisements.

Whilst neither topic is included in TRA's 2010 workshop programme in England and Wales, they do feature in the Scotland programme for 2010 and both presenters are able to deliver half or full-day workshop on these subjects on an in-house basis for individual organisations.

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New bursary scheme for planning support staff - 16/11/09

To celebrate TRA's 25th Anniversary this year we established a bursary scheme aimed at Young Planners and gave away 25 free places on our 2009 events. You can see feedback from many of the bursary winners and how they have benefited from the scheme on our website.

It is clear to us how beneficial this scheme has been and this kind of initiative is something we are very keen to continue with. We are therefore delighted to announce that a new bursary scheme has been established for 2010 for the benefit of planning support staff, through which 20 free places on TRA events will be available.

TRA has always recognised the crucial role played by planning support staff and we have been providing learning and development opportunities for them since 1990. From speaking to many of our clients, it appears that planning support staff in particular are suffering from the current squeeze on training budgets and through this new scheme we are keen to provide access to training opportunities which might not otherwise be available.

Full details of the scheme are available on our website but the key points are:

  • to apply you must be working in a planning support role and be a member of the Planning Admin Network (PAN)
  • you must also be able to demonstrate, through a brief Application Statement, how attending your chosen event would assist you in your career
  • the closing date for applications is 31 December 2009 (an application form is available on the website).
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We can help you prepare for DPD Exams - 11/11/09

Since 2007, TRA has successfully delivered in-house training on Examinations of Development Plan Documents (DPDs) for several authorities across England. Our most recent sessions have been for Hampshire County Council, Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, where excellent feedback was received:

  • "Extremely useful to have a mock hearing, also good to go over the process and case studies. Very practical advice, great to talk to an Inspector without the pressure of a submitted document, very approachable". Ilina Todonovska, Hampshire CC.
  • "Very pleased with the workshop, particularly around case studies and useful examination insights. Will happily recommend to other GM authorities who are approaching Examinations of DPD". Rob Haslam, Trafford MBC.
  • "The presenters were very informative and the mock hearing was very helpful". Helen Green, Trafford MBC.
  • "It was a very good balance of presentations and practical content. Very good to be led by an Inspector with recent/current experience and to have the benefit of the experience of two presenters". Louise Phillips, Tunbridge Wells BC
  • "An entertaining and informative training session". Andrew Maclean, Hampshire CC.

The session explores the processes involved at Examinations; the tests of 'soundness' that the Inspector must consider; and the roles of the different participants. The training includes a detailed look at the role of the planning officer and how to deal with questions and advocacy under the new system. There is also an opportunity to take part in a mock Examination, which will help to demonstrate the points learnt on the day.

The workshop is presented by two of the TRA training team. Jed Griffiths is a Senior Associate of TRA, a member of the RTPI Council and Management Board, and has been personally involved in a number of examinations including the examination of the East of England Plan. John Mattocks is a semi-retired Planning Inspector and has been at the forefront of developments in the examination of DPDs, issuing one of the very first reports under the 2004 Act; finding the Lichfield Core Strategy unsound. He is also a member of the RTPI's Development Plans Network Steering Group.

If you are interested in organising in-house training on Examinations of DPDs or you would like more information, such as an outline programme, please do not hesitate to contact Angela Holmes, without obligation.

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If you missed the latest Enforcement Forum.... - 10/11/09

TRA ran its ever popular Enforcement Forum in Warrington on 27 October. 120 people including Enforcement Officers, Planning Officers and Lawyers attended and from their feedback it proved to be yet another enjoyable, useful and informative day. For those of you who were not able to attend, here's a brief summary of what happened.

Dave Westhead, Senior Enforcement Officer at Stockport MBC and NW NAPE representative was Chair for the day. After welcoming everyone, he paid tribute and offered thanks on behalf of all present to the retiring Chair of NAPE - Les Smith from Cheshire West and Chester Council - for all his hard work and efforts to raise the profile of planning enforcement over recent years.

Much of the day was devoted to a legal update, starting off in plenary session with an overview of "Whats New Then?" in England and Wales given by Ian Kinloch, Consultant Solicitor with Aaron and Partners and TRA Senior Associate.

Three parallel sessions were run, before and after lunch:

  • David Park, Barrister with No5 Chambers, dealt with the ever more complex and legalistic issue of what is a pre-commencement condition. Starting with Whitley, he built up a picture of how precedent had been strictly applied and then how the courts started to moderate the approach, leaving the current situation still far from clear. He also offered some advice about being a witness in inquiry and other proceedings.
  • Andy Kirby, Senior Planning Inspector, looked at Certificates of Lawfulness as matters of law. Working from the basics of what defines lawfulness he looked at the development of some relevant case law before going onto some of the "tricky" areas such as "creeping" lawfulness and how to deal with mixed uses.
  • Les Smith gave the third workshop on "Advertisements you can't ignore". He argued that Planners should initially put more effort into integrating advertising into new developments rather than it being an afterthought. He then went on to show how disastrous some advertising can be to visual amenity and how you need to understand the Advertising Regulations in order to deal with the problems. He concluded that you must act quickly as delay only undermines your case.

The final plenary session was given by Lord Colville of Culross, Assistant Surveillance Commissioner at the OSC on the relevance of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to enforcement work. He very helpfully explained the purpose and extent of the relevant RIPA provisions and set out some useful guidelines to help Enforcement Officers decide if they need to use these powers and then how they should go about getting the proper authorisation. Finally, he stressed the importance of having a audit trail for any covert surveillance operation.

If you want to make sure you don't miss next year's Forum on Enforcement, book early. It's running on Thursday 21 October 2010 at the Birchwood Conference Centre, Warrington, with places priced at just £165 and you can get in touch to reserve your place now.

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Advance details available for Scotland 2010 training programme - 10/11/09

As mentioned previously in ENews, the programme of training workshops to be run in Scotland next year has now been finalised. Details are now available on the website and a handy programme summary is also available in a pdf format for you to download. As always, the programme covers a wide range of topics and continues to offer excellent value for money. Full details will be circulated shortly to our usual mail and e-mail contacts. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive details, you can sign-up via the website.

Detailed pdf leaflets/booking forms will also be available for each event in due course, however bookings can be made now using the general booking form.

Once again, our popular block-booking discount scheme continues to apply for the 2010 programme, giving you the opportunity to obtain a 15% discount by booking 6 or more places over any number of events in the programme. A special block-booking form is available on request or can be downloaded.

Provisional bookings can be made by telephone or online to reserve places on any workshops you are interested in, and are recommended if you are unable to send a confirmed booking right away.

Please note that there are places still available on Effective Planning and Enforcement Site Visits on 9 December in Edinburgh. This particular topic will not be running in 2010 so this is your last chance for quite some time if you would like to attend.

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TRA's new Forum on Planning Policy - 06/11/09

TRA's first Planning Policy Forum took place on the 4th November in London. Delegates with a mixture of public and private sector backgrounds were there to hear a range of topics addressed by speakers drawn from a variety of professional backgrounds.

Dave Morris, Deputy Director at the Department for Communities and Local Government opened proceedings with a contextual overview of recent legislative and policy changes. Chair for the day, Chris Weetman, managed to 'tease out' from Dave his personal views as to the effect any change of Government next year may have on regional and local planning policies.

Anne Skippers, Senior Vice President of the RTPI gave a personal view of what makes an effective and implementable planning policy and offered us the view that policies should provide vision and aspiration balanced with pragmatism, but always based on sound evidence.

The two parallel sessions provided the audience with 'hands on' experience of key elements of current planning practice. John Acres, Planning Director from Catesby Property Group, gave us a valuable insight into how, despite the current theories of engagement being the panacea for successful facilitation of development, the practicalities can sometimes not result in the expected outcomes. Rachel Danemann, Planning And Affordable Housing Officer at South Hams DC, provided practical tips on how to address economic pressures. Her views that planning was about 'good place-making' and that 'good place-making' does not change regardless of the state of the economy was tempered with her call for planners to use common sense to ensure that policy aspirations are delivered.

Finally, semi-retired Planning Inspector, John Mattocks provided his own view of important lessons that all authorities could take away from DPD Examinations held to date. In particular, John focused on the need for critical issues to be addressed through 'core strategies' and that strategic issues such as Green Belts should be addressed at a strategic level, and that DPDs themselves should be should be flexible and address economic uncertainty.

All in all, given such a varied audience in terms of knowledge, experience and background, the day was well received and in particular it was good to see a number of non-policy planners there. Maybe the Government's drive towards 'Development Management' is starting to take shape.

TRA also provides a number of one-day workshops which would be of benefit to planning policy staff, many of which can be delivered on an in-house basis.

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Want to catch up with ENews? - 06/11/09

If you've missed a recent issue of ENews or have only just subscribed to the newsletter then don't forget that previous issues of the TRA monthly newsletter can be accessed via our website. Just visit the Newsletter Archives page to catch up.

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Trevor Roberts Associates

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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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