Today something is bothering me, it has been bubbling away since I wrote this post “The Awful mess of Local Plans online” and I can’t contain it anymore.
Cumbria as a geographic area I think has a lot of online maps and they all vary in quality and usability. Sometimes it looks like the people who are operating them haven’t told other departments what they are doing…. to be fair they probably have but red tape has got in the way…
Lets take Sedbergh (yes I used Google Maps!) for example, if I want to see what services my local authorities’ provide on a map I can go here for Cumbria CC services but if I want to see their Public Rights of Way mapping (and the two national parks), I have to go here. Now Cumbria also has a Historic Environment Record and their mapping is here (seriously slow & doesn’t always work).
Now here’s the fun bit, bins, building control and libraries are dealt with by South Lakeland DC . Ah, but if I want to see my local plan online rather than via PDF I have to go to the Yorkshire Dales online GIS here. Oh and if I forget what Local Authority I’m in Eden DC provide some mapping for part of Sedbergh too.
All these maps provide detailed OS Mastermap level mapping. Some are symbolised quite well, others not so well, I’ve always liked Barrow’s online GIS which South Lakeland seem to use, but that’s because it’s a bit technical and I hear open source [PDF]. I also worry when watermarks aren’t done well.
As a resident I shouldn’t have to check 5 different online maps to check out what’s happening in my area. I certainly shouldn’t have to learn how each one operates! (look I used bold and underline I must be serious)
I can’t help wondering why no one is trying to get a national government mapping organisation whereby everyone gets the same online mapping frontend/interface but is in charge of their own data. A bit like the Planning Portal but for publishing data not just receiving it. If people think this can’t be done, I think people working on the EU’s INSPIRE directive might say otherwise.
What I would like to see is web mapping become central not just an after thought to local and national government websites. Yes there is a place of localisation (depending on usage, tourism, history etc…). But a national web mapping site is needed so we can seamlessly browse geographically adjacent datasets. This would be great not just for residents but also policy makers, politicians and professionals. Imagine for example, seeing planning statistics and local plans for neighbouring authorities on one seamless map? Local councillors could see how neighbouring areas with similar demographics are doing. Think how easy consultation with neighbouring councils could be!
Enough of my musings, I’m off to make a map for a local authority in Iraq….