Everyone should be able to contribute to discussions about development and how land should be used. To assist this, Green Balance provides planning training courses on the way the planning system works, on how to influence decisions, and on important topics such as housing and minerals. We can meet the special requirements of each client, help people whether new to planning or experienced users, and address the needs of any size of group.
All our courses are fun as well as hard work. In full day and two-day planning training events, we usually encourage participants to try their hand at real case studies adapted for the purpose, to put into practice the skills taught on the courses. These can be responses to consultations, submissions to development plan examinations or preparing for public inquiries – complete with cross-examination at a mock inquiry. Green Balance has a range of available case studies to meet different needs, and can prepare bespoke case material for individual clients. We encourage trainees to bring along their questions, experiences and problems for discussion.
All our clients have specific reasons for wishing to improve their engagement with the planning system, and some have more specialised interests which need expert help. Green Balance has helped organisations prepare for particular types of planning event, ranging across such procedures as:
We also run training courses for organisations interested in individual subjects, such as on:
We have written a wide range of training leaflets and handbooks to supplement our courses. A booklet on Responding to Planning Applications for CPRE has seen many editions and well over 100,000 copies were printed for free distribution over twenty years. We also supplied CPRE with a series of Campaigners’ Guides: these are practical handbooks on Trees and Woods, Opencast Coal Mining, Local Plans, Minerals and household projections (‘The Housing Numbers Game’ in 1994 and Housing the Future in 2009). For WWF (UK) we wrote a practical guidePlanning for Wildlife (see Natural World).
Green Balance has a long associaton with training staff at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and its predecessor the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), agencies of the Welsh Government. Since 2000 we have trained staff with both basic courses in Planning and Development Training and specialised courses in Public Inquiry Training, initially using our own case studies but now working from a major case in which CCW took part. More recently we have trained staff in how to participate in the procedures for decising Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). Each course is adjusted to the specific legal obligations and policy objectives of the client, with the NSIP course supplemented by a Quick Reference Guide for internal staff use and advice on how NRW can make the most of the opportunities available to it.
Some participants’ evaluations of our training courses for NRW/CCW:
“Important to have [such] experienced trainers who have in-depth knowledge of the system.”
I “came on this course as a refresher, but it has given me some fresh, and much needed, perspectives! I have been surprisingly stimulated by this course and will be taking a lot from it.”
“Excellent trainer, detailed presentation lightened by humour and comment – a potentially dry subject came across very well. Planning is more interesting than I thought!”
“The way the course was run with the chance for informal chats and questions, was really good – it turned a scary prospect (the public inquiry) into a valuable learning experience.”
"Being part of a mock inquiry felt as real as it could be."
The trainer was "easy to understand and had good knowledge of NSIP process - very helpful and approachable."
We similarly worked for over a decade with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) national office to train its branches in various aspects of the planning system. We still provide bespoke training events as required, most recently for CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire together with Friends of the Earth, with a two-day public inquiry training course specific to anti-fracking campaigns.
Green Balance ran a series of training workshops around the country on ‘campaigning skills’ for local civic societies affiliated to Civic Voice. During 2010 Civic Voice promoted a Street Pride Campaign to tackle the clutter of poles, guide rails, signs, bollards and cabinets building up in the street scene. Green Balance contributed afternoon workshops on how to devise and run effective campaigns. These events encouraged participants to learn actively by such measures as:
because learning by doing sticks in the mind and builds confidence.
Richard Bate of Green Balance was selected to make a presentation to the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s annual ‘People Power 2013’ conference, a high point of the year for campaigning organisations. The Foundation supports individuals, groups and communities to have the skills and confidence to speak up and take effective action on issues that matter to them, focusing principally on those who are new to campaigning, are marginalised, have few resources and cannot get the support they need elsewhere. His workshop on Campaigning on the outside or the inside? Discover how to deal with decision-makers was aimed at small and medium-sized organisations with some campaigning experience.
In 2007, 2008 and 2009 the British Geological Survey ran educational events for sixth formers from schools in Nottinghamshire on the issues surrounding minerals supply, to give a flavour of real-world controversies. These focused around a mock planning inquiry, with Richard Bate of Green Balance taking the role of Inquiry Inspector on each occasion. The 2008 and 2009 events have been recorded and can be viewed below: