ENews Issue - 15 June 2010

ENews - June 2010

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:

  • Yes - ENews is early this month
  • Bespoke training for Councillors involved in planning
  • Conference enables support staff to learn together and share experience
  • TRA's Environmental Management Systems sees positive results
  • Planning for non-planners: tailored briefings
  • Last chance to book on TRA workshops running before the Summer break!
  • Is your service in need of a check-up?
  • Awards ceremony for graduates of certificated courses




Yes - ENews is early this month - 15/06/10

Regular readers of ENews may have spotted that the June issue is being circulated quite a bit earlier in the month than normal. With so much going on we usually only manage to send it out towards the end of the month but it has been necessary to finish this issue early - due to the editor's holidays! So if you were thinking that it isn't long since you received last month's issue, don't worry - we haven't suddenly jumped to fortnightly circulations and normal service will be resumed in July.

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Bespoke training for Councillors involved in planning - 14/06/10

TRA has been training Councillors involved in planning for more than 15 years and has trained Councillors in more than 200 local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales. A list of clients and some of their feedback can be viewed on our website.

Over the years TRA has developed a number of 1-day workshops for Councillors which have become extremely well-established and have been delivered for hundreds of authorities; in particular the Briefing on Planning for Councillors and The Role of Councillors in Planning: propriety and good practice.

We do appreciate, however, that individual authorities sometimes wish to provide training which is more directly tailored to their specific needs, perhaps covering less "mainstream" topics or combining them in different ways. In such cases, we provide as much flexibility as possible in developing bespoke training sessions to reflect these needs.

Two recent examples of bespoke sessions are those we developed for Fenland District Council and Arun District Council. Fenland commissioned TRA to put together a 1-day workshop covering planning enforcement, development and flood risk, and planning for the historic environment. Arun requested a session covering planning appeals (making robust decisions; the role of Councillors at appeals; how appeals are decided; and the costs regime) and an update on aspects of planning policy (culture change; the national and regional picture; climate change and energy; the move to Development Management).

Following the workshop in Fenland, Chris Collison, Interim Head of Development Services, said: "Jed and Viv (the presenters) did an excellent job achieving flexibility in timing as the topics required. Their good natured and at times humorous approach meant that everyone was comfortable and the number of questions showed clearly that the audience was fully engaged. Once again Jed was able to pull out relevant examples from his vast experience. Viv exhibited a great depth of knowledge in some fairly tricky areas of Planning law. I would have no hestiation in using TRA again."

If you would like to discuss your Councillors' training needs to see if we can assist, please contact Angela Holmes, without obligation.

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Conference enables support staff to learn together and share experience - 14/06/10

TRA's latest Conference for Planning Support Staff was held at the end of April in London and proved to be a very positive and stimulating day, and offered a valuable opportunity for discussion and networking.

Mike Hayes, Director of Michael Hayes Consulting, started the day looking at the "big picture" and the many planning achievements (lest we forget our successes) around the country. Andrew Pannell from Halton BC examined how the challenges ahead may affect support staff. The two parallel workshops took a more detailed look at the "nitty gritty" of our day to day lives. It was inspiring to hear from Helen Martin and Jane Lamine of Dudley MBC about their hints and tips for achieving their impressive service improvement … "start talking and don't stop…"! Lee Prebble, TRA Senior Associate, expounded the virtues and vices of a more pro-active approach to planning with lots of practical points for culture change.

As always, feedback from participants was very positive:

  • Excellent event. Very insightful and helpful in broadening my horizons as a relative newcomer to the role of Planning Technical Support Staff. Simon Barlow, Wycombe DC
  • This is probably the most interesting event I have attended. The focus on the "bigger picture" was very enlightening. Isabel Howdon-Bancroft, Derby City Council.
  • As always the event was very informative and interesting. It is always good to meet and talk to people from other authorities, especially in the current climate. It is nice to feel that as support staff you are important. Wendy Cox, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.

Events like these share experience and help participants to realise they are not battling on alone! The next opportunity to take part in our Conference for Planning Support Staff will be in Manchester on Tuesday 28 September. Programme details will be available shortly and we hope to see you there.

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TRA's Environmental Management Systems sees positive results - 14/06/10

We are delighted to report positive results regarding two of the key Environmental objectives established as part of our Environmental Management System (EMS) - reducing our consumption of paper and reducing our CO2 emissions. Our EMS is certified under the British Standard ISO 14001.

Paper - One of the main ways in which we are reducing our paper consumption is through the switch-over of our publicity circulation from postal mailshots to e-mailshots. With thousands of contacts on our database, this clearly has the potential to have a dramatic impact. The number of printed hard-copy leaflets circulated by TRA fell by 23% in the year April 08 - March 09 and we're pleased to say that it has fallen by a further 19% in the year April 09 - March 10.

We are grateful that a large number of our contacts have been willing to help us with this key objective and are now receiving material from us by email. As well as helping to save natural resources, it also means that they receive our information direct to their inbox, without having to wait 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.

CO2 emissions - The main way in which we are trying to reduce our emissions is by increasing the proportion of business travel undertaken by public transport rather than by car. We have always tried to use public transport wherever practicable and its use has increased further since the introduction of the sustainable travel policy within our EMS. For the year from April 2009 to March 2010, 76.9% of our miles travelled were by public transport, compared with 71.2% in the previous 12 months.

But you can also play a part in helping us to reduce the emissions associated with our training activities:

  • if you are attending our inter-authority events, we would encourage you to travel by public transport wherever this is practical, or car-share if you are travelling with colleagues (we do our best to select venues which are accessible by public transport)
  • if you are looking for training options, you could consider asking TRA to deliver training for you on an in-house basis ie where we come to you (this can also be more cost-effective as well as more environmentally friendly).
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Planning for non-planners: tailored briefings - 14/06/10

For many years TRA has specialised in providing training for those involved or interested in the planning process and this has included a number of sessions aimed at explaining the "mysteries of the planning system" to people who regularly interact with it but who are not planners themselves.

One example of our workshops for non-planners is the Briefing on Planning for Housing Associations. The briefing is suitable for any members of staff, but especially senior staff and those on the development side, who need to have a good grasp of how the UK planning system operates. It is designed to help demystify the planning system and to assist Associations relate to it more effectively and productively, in order to achieve their objectives more completely and quickly. The workshop is available on an "in-house" basis for the benefit of individual organisations, or for groups of organisations working together.

This particular workshop was recently delivered by TRA on behalf of Helena Partnerships for the benefit of their own staff and others from organisations they work with. The feedback from the workshop was very positive:

  • Very useful - demystified the planning process.
  • Well presented, content very informative and relevant.
  • Very comprehensive and well presented. Well informed and personable presenters. An excellent workshop.
  • Interesting and helpful, particularly in relation to wider planning issues such as stakeholder/ community consultation and planning policy.
  • Good balance of presentation, discussion and examples. An enjoyable course.
  • The course was delivered professionally and with expertise.

Other audiences for whom we can provide contextual briefings on planning to improve their own interaction with the system include:

  • organisations which interact with planning as consultees, major landowners etc
  • planning agents and applicants (normally commissioned by local authorities)
  • building control staff.

If you are interested in arranging an in-house session along these lines, or would just like further information at this stage please contact Angela Holmes.

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Last chance to book on TRA workshops running before the Summer break! - 10/06/10

The first half of the TRA programme of inter-authority workshops for 2010 is almost complete with the last 2 workshops before the Summer break due to run on 29 June in London. Places are still available on both these workshops, however prompt booking is recommended at this stage if you are interested in attending. The workshops are:

  • The Basics of Planning

    This practical workshop is designed as an introduction to the planning process for administrative, enforcement and technical staff in LPAs and support staff working in private practices. The workshop deals with the key elements of plan-making; processing planning, listed building and other applications; and monitoring and enforcement against unauthorised development. It incorporates group exercises and case studies, and the opportunity to share experiences with colleagues from other authorites and parts of the planning process.

  • Being Effective at Enforcement Inquiries

    This workshop focuses on enforcement appeal evidence and helps participants to better prepare for an inquiry and present their evidence to best effect. A key element of this involves looking at what to include and, equally importantly, what not to include in evidence. As well as outlining the statutory requirements, the workshop explores some of the practicalities including how to actually write the evidence, how it should be presented and how to work as part of a team at an appeal.

Further details for each of the workshops are available by clicking on the relevant links above to the website, where you can also download booking forms. Provisional bookings can be made to reserve places by telephone on 01204 385678 or via the provisional bookings facility on our website.

The workshop programme resumes again in September and details of the Autumn events in both England and Scotland are on the website.

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Is your service in need of a check-up? - 10/06/10

TRA has been undertaking reviews of local authority Planning services for a number of years. These reviews usually cover procedures, performance, management, organisation and resources and we have carried out this type of work for more than 40 local authorities.

Included in our portfolio of procedural consultancy services is the diagnostic review of development management. A TRA diagnostic review is a relatively short and focused review which examines how development management is organised within a client authority, with the aim of identifying any particular areas of concern or any specific aspects where a more detailed review could be most effectively focused (any subsequent work need not involve TRA, although of course we do undertake more detailed reviews when required). It covers all elements of the DM process and is focused mainly on the procedures involved, although it will also consider related aspects of structure and staffing to a limited extent. The output of the review is a short written report of our conclusions and recommendations and we aim to handle each assignment within a month, and within two at the most.

All members of TRA's procedural consultancy team are planning practitioners with extensive and current experience of working within the planning system and experience of advising local authorities on bringing about service improvements.

It is especially important in difficult economic times to make sure that you are making the most effective use of the resources you have. Even if you already run a "tight ship" it can still prove beneficial to have TRA run through your procedures, highlighting aspects where there is potential for further improvement, or otherwise confirming your efficiency (equally useful in some cases).

Further details of the diagnostic review service, including a PDF leaflet, can be found on our website. If you would like to discuss the possibility of commissioning this kind of review for your authority please feel free to contact Penny O'Shea without obligation.

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Awards ceremony for graduates of certificated courses - 09/06/10

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

Four students were there to receive the Certificate of Continuing Education in Planning Enforcement - Jennifer Baxter (Lewes DC), Karen Tozer (Huntingdonshire DC), Richard Marshall (Gedling BC) and Cath Bentley (West Lindsey DC). Two students - Ray McMurray (South Cambridgeshire DC) and Jeff Upton (previously with Lichfield DC and now an independent consultant) were being awarded the equivalent certificate in Management Concepts and Skills in Planning. Beverly Cleary (Calderdale MBC) was there to receive her certificate in Town Planning Support.

It was a lovely occasion and most of 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 from left to right are Jennifer, Karen, Richard, Cath, Ray and Jeff.

TRA's Principal Director, Penny O'Shea, was also at the ceremony to see the students receive their hard-earned certificates. It is a considerable achievement and everyone at TRA, and especially their Tutors, sends their congratulations to these students and all the others graduates who were not able to attend.

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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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