DCLG opens up digital geography as web and linked data services

Published on behalf of Simon Roberts

We know that you, our users, prefer our data when it can be easily visualised and mapped - our deprivation and wellbeing mappers are consistently the most popular pages on OpenDataCommunities. We have therefore begun to open up more of our geographical data in ways that you can download and use over the internet.

As well as this ambition, we also have a legal obligation to make some of our geographic datasets openly available to set standards under the EU INSPIRE directive.

Firstly, we’ve loaded several of our geographic datasets on to the UK’s proposed open source solution for INSPIRE-compliant web services, Geoserver. These include greenbelt boundaries and enterprise zone sites. The datasets are now being made available as viewable ‘web map’ and downloadable ‘web feature’ services, all linked together by their metadata records on data.gov.uk. We can easily update these as and when required.

We are also using this new tool for making many other geographic datasets available over the internet for various web application and interactive visualisations. See Steve Peters’ personal blog for some examples.

Secondly, we’ve created a tool that turns some of these geographic datasets into linked data.

These were published in October and we hope that our users will begin to start using them to create things like this web application.

Is there extra functionality you’d like to see? Or other geographic datasets you want us to publish in this way? Do share your thoughts in the comments below or by email at ODC@communities.gsi.gov.uk.


Explore our new National Planning Casework data

In another pioneering move from OpenDataCommunities, we’re pleased to launch a new mapping app for the National Planning Casework Unit’s (NPCU) data.

The NPCU was set up in March 2011 to manage planning decisions on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. More information on its responsibilities can be found here.

By releasing this data, we hope to provide an open and accessible insight into the NPCU’s casework and increase the information available in the public domain. In part we hope this will reduce the number of external requests for information we receive but more exciting encourage new and innovative uses of our data alongside other third-party planning resources.

The app is based on decision data from April 2014 onwards for Consultation Directions, Third Party Requests to Intervene, Compulsory Purchase Orders and Environmental Impact Assessments. Using the interactive map you can quickly find which parts of the country the NPCU has considered cases from, the types of case it has considered, the decisions taken and where in the country the cases were decided.

There’s also another tool to show the number of cases overall which can be broken down by decision.

You can also find information about how many cases we’ve considered across all case types since the NPCU was set up in March 2011 here.

We appreciate that there’s more we can do to make our data more accessible and improve what insight it gives. We’re already looking at ways to improve this and welcome your thoughts, so please leave your comments below or email us at ODC@communities.gsi.gov.uk.



Making the most of OpenDataCommunities - part 2

Following yesterday's blog post, here's another quick example of retrieving our data directly into a Google Docs spread sheet.

I've developed a hopefully handy list of all Local Authorities, Unitary Councils, Counties, and London Boroughs.

The list also includes Fire, Police, Waste and Transport Authorities, plus National Parks.

It includes the URIs that we've established to define councils as organisations - i.e. as distinct from the geographic areas they serve, which are defined by Ordnance Survey and the Office for National Statistics.

The resulting Google sheet available for download here.

SPARQL enthusiasts can view and edit the query I'm using to populate the spreadsheet here.