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….
Well I’ve been away from this blog for awhile, please accept my apologies, life it seems can get in the way (and I’m glad it does!). So today’s post on the Ordnance Survey blog finally starts to answer some of the frustrating things about Geographic data in the UK.
The Ordnance Survey is a great organisation that creates what I think of as the best paper mapping product anywhere, both in terms of looks and accuracy. Other countries I’m sure look at the UK and its quality of mapping with envy. However there is a little stain on this mapping perfection and that is licencing and something called derived data (see bottom of this article).
Working for local planning authorities I always wanted more access to data and to access it my way. As a planning officer Google Earth/Maps was great and if only StreetView was available to me as well…. One of my roles in one authority I was working at was to develop the front facing planning pages (as well as coordinate the back office). Forget text searches, I wanted maps! Asking IT whether I could do something always started with a cost implication and then a licensing implication. It was here I learnt that some of the data that the OS relied upon for its maps was collected by Local Authorities who then had to buy back their mapping (as MasterMap), think address points, new developments, rights of way maps etc…
So this new post on the OS blog (What the PSMA really means) offers us all some light at the end of the tunnel, and I think regarding derived data, we may see some kind of happy compromise in regards to public use of locally held data like Rights of Way mapping, for PSMA stands for Public Sector Mapping Agreement.
“all organisations will have access to the same data meaning there will be no disparity between the datasets available to those in Central and Local Government and Health”
So, let’s be clear. Under the terms of the PSMA, all 800 members will be able to share Ordnance Survey data, and data derived from it, with any other organisation as part of their ‘core activity’.This is basically the framework that exists under the current Pan Government Agreement (PGA) today.For example, the Rural Payments Agency uses OS MasterMap to help it calculate the grants owed to farmers. As part of that job (or ‘core activity’) they can freely share that data with the farmers they are working with, even though the farmer is not a PGA member themselves.This principle will also extend to organisations that want to publish key information online, like the location of public amenities, using a web mapping API.
Lets hope Local Authorities now act on this new agreement and encourage its residents to access their geographic data and create new ways of using it. You never know this might be a cost saving for local authorities!
Not Sure what “derived data” is? Well here is the an extract from The Guardian that might help shed light :
Q What constitutes data ‘derived’ from Ordnance Survey data?
A Simply put, Ordnance Survey derived data is any data created using Ordnance Survey base data. For example, if you capture a polygon or a point or any other feature using any Ordnance Survey data, either in its data form or as a background context to the polygon/point/other feature capture, this would constitute derived data.
This is often an eye opener to people, Local Authorities are afraid of sharing data sets like Rights of Way maps, that they themselves create maintain and actually keep open on the ground physically! The OS has in the past claimed ownership (and may still do) of these maps and then sold them back to the Local Authority! All because the Authority uses an OS basemap.
Okay this is very off topic but my recent trip to Canada with my young family taught me something. I never thought about it before but travelling with a baby (mine being one year old) is a bit tricky. In fact it seems like she has more luggage than me!
Anyway lets get to the real issue and that is car seats. If you are travelling with a child and you have booked a seat it seems that many airlines require you to have a car seat…. aha this is where it gets tricky because very few will let you know what is acceptable. Add to that the fact that north american airlines have different rules and you have some issues! North America and Europe have different standards so its important you know what type of car seat to bring….
I haven’t got all the answers but here is what I know from my recent trip
Our car seat: Britax Eclipse http://www.britax.co.uk/car-seats/eclipse
Out to Canada flight:
- Check-in at BMI desk, a staff member called a supervisor to check our car seat. We were told it needed to be a five point harness and be able to secured with a lap belt.
- The hostess on the BMI domestic flight came and checked we knew how to install it and to ensure it was secure.
- Connecting in Heathrow was a nightmare try carrying a large car seat at speed through Heathrow (come to think of it try going at speed through Heathrow normally!).
- On the Air Canada flight again we were asked if we knew how to install it and someone then came to check it was secure…
Return to UK flight:
- Check in at Air Canada desk car seat wasn’t questioned…
- On the Air Canada flight an air hostess asked to see a red sticker, apparently North American car seats have some kind of sticker indicating compliance with a sticker. This being a UK one it has an orange sticker saying it complies with ECE R44/04 certification. I did say that this seat complied with Air Canada’s own rules (as stated by their sales team) we had enough trouble just getting them to tell us this… anyway we were allowed on after her supervisor (I think) looked at it and checked how it was secured.
- The BMI flight a member staff (ground crew)took our car seat and said they would get someone to install it for us, which was very nice until we got to our seat and they had left the strap that secured it twisted and very loose! (Make sure it is tight as turbulence might be an issue!). When we started to put our daughter in the seat the Air attendant said that he thought we should have her on our lap during take off and landing…. argh! Fortunately he said he would check and then never returned.
One more thing: I bought a device to drag our car seat around airports I can’t say how much this saved my back! It seems to fit most car seats (including our Britax Eclipse), this is it, I purchased it in Canada (at BabyDepot in Kitchener, Ontario http://www.thebabydepot.ca/) as I haven’t found it in the UK (anyone any ideas??). It’s called the GoGo Kidz Travelmate. Only thing I would say about it is that we had to take it off to fit through airport scanners and it has the worlds longest screw on it when people are tsk tsk ing behind you….
Before this trip I got the following emails first from Air Canada:
Thank you for your email.
For your forthcoming flight with your daughter, you will require a car seat. The car seat must ensure that item displays an ECE R44/04 certificate label which indicates that it complies with Standards Safety Regulations and requirements.
From April 2008, all child car seats that were manufactured before 1995 and approved to ECE R Standard Regulations 44/01 and 44/02 are no longer legal and must not be used.
You may not use a booster seat or cushion as it is not desgined for aircraft use.
I trust this is the information you require, and should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Next from Britax:
Thank you for your email.
The CAA accept a child seat that is approved to the European Standard and suitable for use with a lap belt. However, as the ultimate responsibility for using the seat on the aircraft lies with the airline, we always recommend that you contact them for confirmation and check that the seat in question will fit (dimensionally) on their airline seat.
We have had positive feedback from users concerning use of the Freeway, Prince (or Fisher Price Forward facing Child Seat) on BA flights. Although the Eclipse and Renaissance technically comply with the above rules we have not had similar feedback from customers concerning these models.
Please note that FAA airlines are likely to have different regulations.
The dimensions of the seats are as follows:
Width = 43cm
Height = 72cm
Length = 47cm
Width = 43 cm
Height = 65 cm
Length = 47 cm
In regards to regulations this is a legal requirement that we have to comply to and not a general decision, there is no worldwide regulation.
We do hope that this is of assistance to you.
Yet more evidence has emerged recently which serves to underline the problems with the new plan-making system introduced only six years ago. Ministers hailed the Planning and Compensation Act, 2004 as heralding a new era in urban planning. They promised faster and cheaper plans and ones with more public engagement.
This article is written by Derrick where I work at Garsdale Design, LDFs from my perspective as a former Development Control Officer have always been mixed bag. I understand the desire to improve and simplify the system but the LDF process has become more cumbersome than the previous Local Plan system. It’s a shame because there were some good ideas in the LDF system and Planning is such an important part of government (national, regional and local).
Derrick highlights problems with actually completing this new LDF process by Local Planning Authorities and that Planners are of the opinion that this new system has not made quicker the process of plan making. I’m sure anyone who has worked in a Local Authority as a Planner (Policy or Development Control) could tell you they don’t need a survey to tell them that!
My concern is that this plan making process is furthering the feeling of disenfranchisement that the public already have. This is a difficult area, on the one hand a lot of the public feel big development will just be passed regardless of their opinion. At the same time people applying for extensions or dwellings feel thwarted at every turn by red tape and strange ideas about what is accpetable development (I can’t have PVC windows?). Yet Developers see the system as overly complicated and very slow. Pleasing all sides was always going to be difficult. Unfortunatley what’s certain is that the Planning system needs to change again, lets hope whoever gets in after the election learns from previous mistakes.
Speaking of the sharing of data (See previous post), what I have yet to understand is why the UK government and the Royal Mail wants to keep some of this data secret/commericial?
Look at all the different local planning authorities who have to advertise and consult on planning applications. Each council has its very own planning database and online system. Each has a different format for publishing its weekly lists. In part due to the planning delivery grant and e-planning initiatives (eGov success story??)
Then along come Planningalerts.com wanting to make it easy for the public to see if there are planning applications in their area for free. But to do so requires purchase of a licence for using the postcode file. It all seems just a bit unfair, and whilst I understand the need to be able to pay for the postcode databases to be updated I think there would be cost savings to many local authorities and the public if this system was changed. (how about free for non-commercial use to start with?)
Instead of rewarding this great idea that increases consultation and helps the citizen and local authorities, national government and the post office seem reluctant to share… and for the sake of a few million pounds.