August 2007 Archives

There is a growing body of opinion that public information, already paid for out of general taxation, ought not to be commodified. See
At the very least, some of the cost of maintaining currency of core datasets, such as base mapping, ought to be picked up by those who create the changes which need to be recorded for the public good. If nothing in the world ever changed, it would be a lot cheaper to keep maps up-to-date!

An opportunity recently arose to make this point, in the Government's consultation on changes to the way in which planning applications are paid for through fees charged by planning authorities. Anyone wanting to develop their land (or indeed anyone else's land) has to pay up-front a fee that is supposed to cover the cost incurred by local planners in processing their application.

In my research looking at barriers to value mapping UK, I have concluded that a major barrier is the business model that UK has adopted for certain key public agencies such as Ordnance Survey, plus the lack of 'joined up' thinking generally about the importance of monitoring changes in the built environment. I therefore took it upon myself to suggest that an OS Supplement to planning fees might go some way to reducing the level of payments that map data users now have to pay OS.

My full submission to Communities and Local Government can be downloaded here. I would welcome comment on the idea, as I hope there will be further discussion in the near future on this matter. Government has promised to report to Parliament before the next Budget on the economic implications of alternative business models for OS and other trading funds.

As reported in March, Modern Maps proprietor Tony Vickers will have a major role in a study for the UK Government's regeneration agency English Partnerships on the future of the National Land Use Database (NLUD) of Previously Developed Land (PDL). The study was expected to commence in February but there was a hitch in pre-contract administration which meant that work is only just starting in earnest.

Kingston University is now able to issue a Press Release
on the award of the contract. This confirms Vickers' role as Researcher and sets out Kingston's approach to the study.

Over 450 local planning authority chiefs in England will shortly receive an invitation to complete an online questionnaire. Project Director Professor Sarah Sayce, who has been Vickers' PhD Director of Studies, has said that she believes one reason Kingston's tender bid was successful was his current active involvement in local planning, as an elected councillor who deals everyday with land use information and planning policy decisions locally.

Vickers is also a Director (non-executive) of the Association for Geographic Information, which wishes to actively support the study. The great majority of AGI members will be affected by developments in NLUD. AGI's current Chair and Director of the GeoInformation Group - a leading supplier of land use related imagery and other data to local authorities - is a consultant to the Kingston Study Team.

The rather dry formal title of the project has been replaced by one that will be used in publicity:
Brownfield Data: can we do better

In his book Location Matters: Recycling Britain's Wealth, out now from Shepheard-Walwyn (specialist publishers on ethical economics) Vickers alludes to the need for better land information and the fact that this year's EU INSPIRE Directive....

may provide the regulatory stimulus for us to obtain all the information needed to derive land value....

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