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Month: November 2010

GIS timelapse video Part 1

GIS timelapse video Part 1

Okay I’ve started experimenting with some data I have access to, the new time attribute function in ArcGIS10 and my new YouTube account.

So can anyone guess what data I’ve used and where it’s located (honestly if you know me it’s not that difficult!)?  Clue first point has a year of 1946 and there are over 350,000 entries…. oh and I’ve blogged about it before 🙂

Mapping Cumbria – Designation Datasets

Mapping Cumbria – Designation Datasets

Listed Buildings Near Sedbergh

So in my travels to find GIS data for Cumbria I’ve been looking at national data sets.  One interesting site I’ve found is from English Heritage who allow the download of ‘designation datasets’.

The following datasets can be downloaded in zipped folders containing ESRI shapefile format files:

  • Listed Buildings
  • Scheduled Monuments
  • Registered Parks and Gardens
  • Registered Battlefields
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Protected Wreck Sites

Ignoring the ESRI centric nature of the data for the moment this is a surprising lot of data to release, being a map man though I’m very happy!

As you can see from the screen captures (above and below) I’ve managed to extract the dataset and make it into something usable in Google Earth as a KML file.  Of course you can equally use ArcGIS Explorer.

I’ve used this point shapefile data, excel and my knowledge of Images of England website to create clickable points map that brings up the building listing and if available the photograph.   It’s really using the Listed Buildings ID and combining it with a search term to link through to the appropriate page on Images of England.

I’m slowly building up quite a dataset of Cumbrian related material, and combine that with the Portable Antiquities Scheme live datasets you can make some quite useful maps.

That’s a lot of listed buildings in Cumbria!
The Great Grey Asby (Part 2 – Thoughts) #gab10 #ruralbroadband

The Great Grey Asby (Part 2 – Thoughts) #gab10 #ruralbroadband

It was part way through these #gab10 presentations that I realised what bothered me so much:
Great Asby Village hall and the attendees!
Can you see it?  Well of course you can, the majority of attendees look somewhat, how shall I put this? Grey-haired?  I know @loulouk’s post suggest there was no one under 45:

“All of them, I think, were over 45. Bar Rory’s team, the guest speakers and a few ‘experts’ invited along, no one in the hall was under 45. Someone apparently said they were struggling to enthuse their local parish with the opportunities broadband would bring to the community, and that they had responded that if the older generation couldnt be enthused then maybe the under 20’s could be. The reply? There aren’t any, they’ve all left because there is no broadband.” Source : A Shiny World “#gab10”

Well I was there and I am 32!   But the point is well made, but I think I have an answer to this riddle of why few younger people turned up.  
  1.  for me I had to leave early as it was bonfire night in Sedbergh at 7pm
  2. Saturday’s are difficult for many if you work all week a meeting in the middle of nowhere about computers isn’t that enticing…
  3. I got my invite via Twitter, how were other people identified?  My guess is through Parish councils and local businesses?   If it’s via community groups we know these are not attended well by working age younger people, just because we don’t have the time!

This really goes to the heart of the matter and I know from Twitter and blog posts that a lot of people went away heartened and enthused by this initiative.   “Boo!” to BT and “hurrah!” for local community projects.   I left feeling differently, and yes I know I left just before the round table sessions.  So here are my general thoughts and please note I often like to play devil’s advocate!
There’s a reason why I don’t live near my parents home and business in Sedbergh, and this may come as a shock to some of those at Great Asby on Saturday, it is not due to lack of superfast broadband.   Broadband is way down on my list of priorities when choosing a house.   Is it affordable and near where I work?   That’s what I care most about.   I live in Carlisle and broadband speeds are shockingly bad, so bad that my parents house in Sedbergh outperforms mine at home.   Do I care that much?  Not really as Carlisle is where I could afford a house.  I basically can’t afford to care.
Essentially my family (wife and daughter) and I been priced out of certain areas in Cumbria.  Whose fault is it?  It’s the retired people, or people like my parents (who could retire but choose to work) the news that the over 50s are taking over Cumbria is not a surprise.   With their final salary pensions and young retirement age they got on to the property ladder long ago and now post work have decided to purchase houses in rural areas without it seems much thought as to their future (when they need care for example).   Combine that with Cumbria’s Local Planning Authorities’ obsession with limiting new houses and allowing barn conversions only for holiday homes.  We young working age families never had chance of being able to afforde houses in rural areas of Cumbria.
At Great Asby you’d be forgiven for thinking that broadband will solve everything, the young will stay if they have fibre optic in the village.  No we won’t and we can’t, fibre optic broadband will just add more value to the house prices and working age young people with families will still not be able to afford living in these rural areas.
To avoid the perils of house price rises due to superfast access we need to ensure that fibre is universal (that way it isn’t part of the purchase decision on a house).   I would think most people want a national infrastructure for fibre broadband (I do), but to deliver a national infrastructure either the Government needs to step up and do it or large private companies need to be forced to do it.    Either way, small local projects funded with what is effectively peanuts cannot deliver in a comprehensive way a meaningful solution.   Sorry but they can’t.  
This argument that national fibre is prohibitively expensive to deliver is nonsense.  Yes it is expensive but we could perhaps look at what government spends its money on, for instance do we need the ability to blow half the world up with nuclear weapons (I’m talking trident)?   Or here’s a novel thought: if fibre optics will truly change our country for the better perhaps we’ll recover those costs and then some!   Remembering the meeting I know that fibre has a life of 50 years or more…   The railways were very expensive to build but have paid us back in revenue and new business opportunities over and over.   Let us not think short term costs here, we should consider this a long term investment, not a long term cost.
Most people boo’d at the mention of BT in the meeting probably because they seem to be abusing their monopolistic position.  But let’s face it, that’s the nature of capitalism and it’s not necessarily BTs fault.   BT is a private company looking after themselves and their shareholders (and shareholders are often pension providers I might add!).   Rather than criticising and complaining about BT we should be using its massive reach and infrastructure as part of the solution.   Any superfast network must be a national project, because exclusion is a national issue whether you are in a rural area or in a inner city deprived area.   
The people meeting in Great Asby were there to ensure that rural areas are not excluded from access to the internet at superfast speeds.  The issues being tackled at the meeting are bigger than some piece of cable being laid and we shouldn’t forget that.  This is not really about the technology this is about access to services now and in the future.

A Last Word … 

It was a great meeting and I was surprised at the number of attendees I just hope that expectations are not raised by the politicians and civil servants so much that even small successes are seen as disappointments.

I also hope those that attended are active within other areas to, for example planning and the provision of new affordable (by that I mean cheap not shared ownership) homes in villages as well as using local services such as the post office.

As important as fibre optic broadband is there are other things out there of equal or more importance.  My advice/hope is that these extraordinary people who attended Great Asby on Saturday are not distracted by the flashy technology.

Related Links
The Great Grey Asby (Part 1) #gab10 #ruralbroadband

The Great Grey Asby (Part 1) #gab10 #ruralbroadband

Apologies for the title but if you attended you’ll know why I’ve called it that and if you read on (part 2) you’ll find out why!
First find Great Asby…
So on Friday the 29th October I received a direct message (DM) from a Louis Mosley (@louismosley) who works for Rory Stewart the MP for Penrith/Eden area.   The message was an invite to attend a “Broadband Champions Inaugural Meeting”.  This was somewhat out of the blue, now I’ve had the occasional discussions with people on twitter in regards to rural broadband access (@RuralUK and @cyberdoyle to  name but 2) and I followed various threads.   To me there seemed to be people and communities out there doing interesting things to get there internet access.
So I looked into it and saw that Rory Stewart would indeed be attending and that this was part of a long running campaign to get broadband access to rural areas.   Not only that but Cumbria had been chosen as a pilot area to receive government funding (£10-15 million) to increase access to broadband for rural communities.   I won’t go into more details about the history of it or indeed the specifics if you want to read more look at the related links at the end of this post to start you off, this post would be too long otherwise.
The other thing I’ve been doing at the moment is reading Rory Stewart’s book (on my Amazon Kindle) ‘Occupational Hazards’ if you know what I do and have seen my previous post you’ll know why.  
The upshot after some initial research was that I decided to go, I really didn’t know what would happen or who would be there but looking at the map I thought that this might well be poorly attended and somewhat of a ramshackle meeting.  With a politician trying to convince the locals that he actually cared….  (I’m a cynic)
So on Saturday I drove off to Great Asby (an adventure in itself!), when I arrived cars were parked everywhere (they’re still there on StreetView!), so my initial thought about it being poorly attended was trashed immediately.   I was glad I came and now very curious.  
After what can only be described as a good queue (we are in England afterall) I collected my name badge and entered the hall which was packed with people, however something was not quite right and I just couldn’t place my finger on what bothered me (I’ll come back to that in a bit).  
I recognised a couple of people, one of whom I’ve been doing a job for, but otherwise a lot of strangers.   On ‘registration’ we were given a luggage tag and asked to pin it on a map of Cumbria as to where we represented.   I noted that, if I’d known they wanted a map on a single piece of paper I could have helped out there!  
It was here at the map where I met @imhelenj who recognised me from my name as someone from Twitter (unusual apparently to be yourself online, or perhaps a lack of imagination on my part!?).   I must make my first apology, I am normally quite confident but for some reason I was a little nervous and my brain wasn’t quite engaging so words didn’t come easily as a I struggled to look up in my head twitter names and jpgs!  Did I know her?  Had I talked with her?  She had been in some of the conversations but I don’t think we have ever talked directly and just recently she retweeted something of mine .  
During the time before the meeting started @RuralUK found me and said hello.  Again please accept my apologies I was a little overwhelmed and conversations weren’t exactly flowing from me.  In hindsight @RuralUK and I have plenty to say to each other as we have chatted on twitter on a number of occasions.
We all sat down (if we could find a seat) and Rory Stewart got up and presented a very good session we learnt about Great Asby’s broadband initiative as well hearing from people like CISCO and BDUK.   There was also some good Q&As with most of the people who presented.  Rather than me repeat all that we learnt you could just watched the sessions online from here.  
Part 2 will be my thoughts on and from the Great Asby meeting.
Related Links
An interesting day at the office: #GIS & #masterplanning in #Iraq

An interesting day at the office: #GIS & #masterplanning in #Iraq


The Westmorland Gazette ran today with a news piece about a project I’ve been working on at Garsdale Design Limited .   It’s been a really interesting project and a wonderful to know that our work from a very small family firm in Cumbria can have the potential to make such a big difference for people.

We’ve been working on the master planning project for Nasiriyah (a city in Southern Iraq, Dhi Qar) for over two years now, and you may have got hints from this blog that I was working on something interesting!

Iraqi Planners in Kendal

We also held training sessions here in the UK (in Liverpool) for the Iraqi planners that will eventually take ownership of the master plan.   This was a great opportunity to meet town planning and local government professionals from a very different environment.    Despite all the sad stories that news organisations like to print about Iraq they were all very upbeat confident professionals who wanted nothing but the best for their country.   It was a very positive and friendly experience for both parties.

As we are a small firm everyone needs multiple skills outside their specialisms.   I maybe a planner but I’m also the IT guy responsible for our website/social networking, general systems and backup procedures as well as a projects GIS, I’m often involved in CAD and word/Indesign production as well.   It’s not a boast its just what you have to do in a small team, and it certainly keeps you on your toes!

The Masterplan

Extract Map Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar, Iraq

My involvement has been with the many aspects of the Planning standards, GIS and mapping as well some of the report writing.

I did the research of existing Iraqi standards and master plans (from mainly Polish firms in the 1980s) as well as helped create the new planning standards.  

There were also instances where facts on the ground changed during the project for instance water and sewage treatment plants were being completed before whilst the project was just getting started!   This was not a problem (but it did require some updates to the GIS!) as to wait for planners to figure out where best to site these plants would be unfair and harmful to the local population.

The GIS for Nasiriyah

Here in the UK I have managed and updated the GIS for the Nasiriyah project.   It’s been a steep learning curve as although I know the capabilities of GIS and how it can add real value to a project some of the more technical/programming aspects I am not so familiar with.    

Capture those GCPs!

Our Iraqi partners (Iraqi Planners Group) did all the major surveying and photography in Iraq.  They collected together large datasets and sent them to us as geodatabases (ArcGIS).   Difficulties with the datasets were mainly down to language barriers.   Our Arabic being ‘limited’ meant that we relied on their English skills and our use of Google Translate which sometimes led to confusing labels and fields.   However we have close contact with our Iraqi counterparts and these were quickly ironed out.

Satellite Imagery was also purchased that covered Nasiriyah city’s existing size on the, this was georeferenced with appropriate Ground Control Points (GCPs).

Well that’s all for the moment about the project I’ve been working on obviously I can’t let you know everything but if you are interested you can visit Garsdale Design Limited’s website for experience sheets on the project.  

I’ll just leave you with extracts of some the mapping I’ve done for the project…. it would be nice if people had questions or comments about any aspects of the project.

Early Landuse Map

Issues with old Master Plan
Time in Residence