ENews Issue - 26 November 2013

ENews - November 2013

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:

  • A viable alternative for your CIL Exam?
  • Certificated Enforcement course: modules on Adverts and Material Change of Use coming up
  • New workshop on Customer Care in planning
  • TRA can help you prepare for Development Plan Examinations
  • Catch up with ENews
  • Get more for your money with in-house training options
  • Senior Associate addresses national conference for Councillors




A viable alternative for your CIL Exam?

If you are working towards the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy in your authority why not let TRA provide you with a quotation for the Examination?

Unlike other Development Plan Documents, CIL Charging Schedules do not need to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination. The Government effectively opened up the examination process through the legislation: s212 of the Planning Act 2008 says that the authority must appoint someone who, in their opinion, is independent of the authority and has appropriate qualifications and experience. Whilst subsequent CLG guidance suggested that a Planning Inspector is likely to fulfil these criteria, going straight to the Inspectorate is not the only choice open to authorities. We believe that TRA offers a viable alternative (no pun intended).

As an organisation that has provided support for the planning service for many years but which is independent of both local and central government, TRA is ideally placed to provide a prompt, professional and competitively-priced CIL Examination service.

Further information can be found on our website. You can also contact Penny O'Shea to find out more, including likely costs, without obligation.

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Certificated Enforcement course: modules on Adverts and Material Change of Use coming up

Modules in the sought-after Certificated Training Programme in Planning Enforcement run three times during the year: roughly speaking in Spring, Summer and Autumn.

The next opportunities to attend are Planning enforcement and advertisement control in January & March 2014 (don't wait too long to book..) and Planning enforcement and material change of use in April & June 2014.

Both modules will take place at Madingley Hall in Cambridge - see the above links for exact dates and more information on the scope/coverage of each module.

The modules are part of a programme which leads to the award of the Certificate in Planning Enforcement for those who successfully complete 4 out of the 5 modules available; more than 140 students have been awarded the certificate so far. We are also pleased to have students attend individual modules on a one-off basis on a topic of particular relevance to them.

For each module, students are required to attend two two-day Tutorial Sessions and complete project work based on their own work situation. Because of this, a certain level of commitment is required but ultimately the student will gain a systematic framework for their job, and invaluable knowledge and skills which can make real improvements to their day-to-day work and also their own professional development. Feedback from previous students has been extremely positive in terms of the benefits both to themselves as individuals, and also the improvements to their authority's enforcement function as a result of information they have been able to take back with them. Some comments from previous students.....

Planning enforcement and advertisement control

  • This course will have a lasting impact. Not only have I gained considerably from the experience but the notes and assignments will provide a lasting reference for the entire enforcement team enabling us all to perform better. Rosemarie Dannatt, Arun DC.
  • The advert regulations are very complex. The module has shown me how to work through the regs and apply the correct classes. Rajinder Lalli, Warwick DC.
  • I will have the confidence to prepare a case for prosecution and hope it would be successful. Kerry McCartney, Allerdale DC.
  • Through increased knowledge of the planning system as a whole, I am now aware that adverts can be effectively dealt with which has made my job a lot easier. Gemma Manthorpe, Great Yarnouth BC.

Planning enforcement and material change of use

  • MATERIAL - never has a word had so many meanings to so many people, and after this course, how few of them were right! William Walsh, Bedford BC
  • Being able to apply what I have learnt on this module in the future will make the job much easier. Ryan Dodd, East Lindsey DC
  • Material change of use is a concept I deal with daily and I will be able to be confident in my ability and sure of my actions. Andrew Dudley, Melton BC
  • Invaluable module to attend at the beginning of your role as a Planning Enforcement officer, so you know what to look for in assessing whether a material change of use has taken place. Susan Francis, St Edmundsbury Borough Council

If you would like to reserve a place on either module, a booking form is available to download from our website. Alternatively places can be reserved provisionally for a limited time via the online provisional booking facility, or by telephoning 01204 385678.

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New workshop on Customer Care in planning

In an increasingly demanding world - where users expect excellent service at minimum cost - the provision of a quality, customer-oriented planning service can go a long way towards achieving the quality outcomes local authorities are striving for. Unfortunately, whether as part of the local plan process or the development management process, understanding who your customers are and how their needs might be met is an element of the job that is often overlooked.

Traditionally, many authorities have either taken little account of their customers' needs or gone too far in acceding to their demands. The goal is to find that ideal centre position where the customer's reasonable expectations are met - but it can be difficult.

This new one-day interactive workshop, being introduced for 2014, provides planners and technical/support staff with an understanding of why customer care matters now more than ever and how to deliver good customer service at little or no extra cost in terms of time or money. Through a combination of presentations and practical exercises, Managing the Planning Customer's Experience explores what good customer care actually means and why it matters, the importance of listening skills and communicating clearly, handling complaints and understanding and preventing conflict, and ends with action points for achieving positive outcomes.

There are lots of courses out there on customer care but the benefit of this new TRA workshop is that it is designed and delivered by a planner who understands the competing demands within local government planning and the sorts of issues participants will be facing on a daily basis. The workshop is presented by Chris Weetman.

Although the workshop is new to our inter-authority programme, it has already been delivered on an in-house basis:

  • Good to be told about how to communicate clearly as a planner and to think about the consequences of getting it right or wrong. Good to have a planner who understands the issues delivering the training. Helen Winsall, Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC
  • Very enlightening, thought provoking and interesting. Allan Leah, Cheshire East Council.
  • This was/is a useful course in that it was a solid reminder of the basics that tend to get lost in the course of everyday working. Kept the subject fresh! G Davies, Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC
  • Very enjoyable and helped me to understand why customer service is important and how I can contribute to the customer experience. Rob Christ, Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC

Our 2014 programmes are still being finalised but the workshop will run in Glasgow (likely to be June) and in London (likely to be September). Keep an eye on our website for confirmation of the dates or email Shelagh Pooley if you would like to receive details once they are available.

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TRA can help you prepare for Development Plan Examinations

If, at some stage your authority is looking at submitting development plan documents to the Planning Inspectorate for examination, you might want to learn more about our in-house training workshop that focuses specifically on the examination.

TRA has successfully delivered in-house training on Appearing at Development Plan (DPD) Examinations since 2007 for authorities across England, Wales and Scotland. Our most recent session was delivered at Cherwell District Council, where excellent feedback was received:

  • All thought it was very worthwhile and helpful and we all took some new information away with us. Our thanks to the presenters who certainly have helped people feel a bit more familiar and confident with the process. David Peckford, Principal Planning Officer
  • It was really useful to see how a hearing session is run. Overall, the workshop has given me a great insight into the examination process. The presentation was clear and was helpful for leading us to the mock hearing which was one of the highlights of the workshop. Yuen Wong
  • A very useful update and good preparation for any involvement in an examination hearing. A good confidence boost! Andrew Bowe
  • I had no experience in hearings and this session has helped me to gain an understanding and importantly has built my confidence. It more than met my expectations. Maria Garcia Dopato.

The aim of this highly practical and extremely popular workshop is to provide anyone who is about to be involved in a DPD Examination with a better understanding of the system; what it is designed to achieve; and crucially, how they personally can participate in the process effectively. It provides participants with practical skills and information to assist them and their authority when they attend their own examination.



The morning session explores the nature of the examination process, the roles of the different participants, and how the Inspector will run the examination itself. The afternoon session is devoted to a mock hearing exercise in which participants have the opportunity to play an active role. This enjoyable and worthwhile exercise provides an insight into how an Inspector is likely to approach the procedural elements of the examination and how he/she will seek to assess the soundness of the particular DPD concerned. A list of our previous satisfied clients and some participant feedback can be found on the TRA website.

The workshop can accommodate a maximum of 20 participants and is delivered by two of the TRA presenting team, Jed Griffiths, Senior Associate of TRA and John Mattocks, a retired Planning Inspector.

If you are interested in organising in-house training on DPD examinations, 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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Catch up with ENews

If you've missed a recent issue of ENews, can't find that article you meant to keep on file, 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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Get more for your money with in-house training options

TRA was recently commissioned on behalf of Bracknell Forest Council to prepare and deliver two in-house sessions on enforcement issues on the same day: one for officers and one for Councillors. The sessions were developed and delivered by Senior Associate, and TRA's resident 'Enforcement Expert', Vivien Green.

Delivering training in this way - two half-day sessions on the same day, as opposed to two half-day sessions on different days - is much more cost effective for the authority.

The training for officers ran in the afternoon and was for the benefit of the Council's planning staff who needed an overview of planning enforcement and the key tools for taking enforcement action. The session looked at what the NPPF says about enforcement; what constitutes a breach of planning control; the time limits for taking enforcement action; the importance of evidence; the tests for expediency and the key elements of the main enforcement tools.

Participant feedback was very positive:

  • Good rounded presentation without becoming too technical. Gave participants the opportunity to ask questions at regular intervals. The handouts provided are clear and useful and should help me with my case loads going forward. Peter Brunsden
  • It provided an excellent insight into what planning enforcement is, how it works, and what the options are. A very interesting programme. Richard Sherwin
  • Not having any previous knowledge of enforcement work the session has now given me this knowledge to implement in my new role. Mark O'Leary

Timing was an important consideration in scheduling the training for Councillors, and so this session was delivered in the evening to suit the participants. The training was for the benefit of Ward and Parish Councillors and covered the key elements of planning enforcement.

The session started off by looking at the need for planning permission and then briefly considered some of the problems of defining whether development had taken place. The presenter then dealt with:

  • what constitutes a breach of planning control
  • the time period that the Council has for taking action
  • expediency and planning harm
  • the outcomes from this decision
  • the key features of an Enforcement Notice and an appeal.

Once again, participant feedback was very encouraging:

  • Excellent presentation. Very informative. James Finnie
  • I found it very helpful and informative. Mrs. R. Woolford
  • Very comprehensive without being too detailed. Bruce McKenzie-Boyle
  • Excellent presentation with full answers to all (complex) questions. Well structured content. Michael Brossard.

This is the ideal approach if both officers and councillors require training or if you have two different groups of officers with different training needs (as recently seen at Slough Borough Council where we delivered one session on Validation and a session for a different audience on Appeals).

As we would be involving a single presenter, there may be limits to the range of topics that can be covered in this way, but the majority of TRA's experienced presenters are knowledgeable on a wide range of planning related subjects. If you have any particular requirements and you would be interested in delivering training in this way, please contact Angela Holmes directly, to discuss the options available.

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Senior Associate addresses national conference for Councillors

TRA Senior Associate, Vivien Green, was once again invited by the RTPI to deliver a workshop on planning enforcement at their annual Politicians in Planning Conference. The event took place on 25th October in Milton Keynes and this time round Vivien chose to talk about Breaches of Conditions.

Some of the Councillors who attended were new to Planning Committee but others obviously had a long-standing interest in enforcement and their questions and concerns made for an interesting and lively session. Vivien's presentation looked at the timescale for acting against a breach of condition - considering whether it was expedient to enforce or whether the condition needed to be varied/amended - before briefly explaining the pros and cons of the enforcement tools: breach of condition notice and breach of condition enforcement notice.

She finished the talk on a positive note, considering how LPAs could put more effort into monitoring compliance with conditions as advised in the NPPF. Whilst acknowledging that there are a number of reasons (not all financial) why many Councils are not proactive and do not monitor compliance with conditions, she suggested some incremental changes that most LPAs could take on board. For example, improving one of the most important (and neglected) documents that comes out of a planning office - the decision notice. She looked at making them intelligible and user-friendly by the ordering of conditions: grouping all pre-commencement conditions at the beginning and then proceeding in a logical sequence through conditions relevant to the stages of development, ending with those which would always apply to the development. To demonstrate how poor some notices are she showed delegates one issued only a few days previously (diplomatically redacting the name of the LPA). Have you l ooked at yours recently?.......

As TRA's expert on enforcement, Vivien has delivered a number of in-house workshops for Councillors on various aspects of planning enforcement; some half-day and some full-day. If you think Councillors in your authority would benefit from a similar session please contact Angela Holmes, without obligation, to discuss your requirements.

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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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