Neighbourhood Planning – mapping the change

Have you heard about Neighbourhood Planning?

It is a new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work.  They will be able to:

  • choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built
  • have their say on what those new buildings should look like and what infrastructure should be provided
  • grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead.

A Neighbourhood Planning Area (NPA) can cover any neighbourhood, as long as it is coherent, consistent and appropriate; they will differ for different areas across the country, and should be what is most appropriate for that area.   At the time of writing, around 500 local areas have either applied for or been officially designated by their Local Authority as a NPA.  Importantly, local residents in three areas (Upper Eden, St James in Exeter and Thame, South Oxfordshire) have now voted “yes” to formally adopting their Neighbourhood Plans

Opportunities for Open Data

As an open data enthusiast, I believe that Neighbourhood Planning  communities could benefit significantly from on-line tools and data sources that help them capture and share information, and work together on their plans and issues in their neighbourhoods.

Working with friends at DCLG, I’ve been exploring how to bring together various related data sources in fully open, accessible and re-usable ways.

The result is this new demonstration application

 The demonstration application


Currently, the application joins up three relevant, and (hopefully) useful and relevant sources.

The first is a new informal dataset that we’ve curated by scouring Local Authority and Neighbourhood Planning websites.   This captures basic information about each NPA; things like, where it is, key dates, and links to documents such as the original application and local authority designation papers.    Note that this data is not complete, not 100% accurate,  and I’d encourage you to get involved and help improve it – see Improving the map section below.

The opening map shows clusters of NPAs.  To view individual areas, simply zoom in (using the controls on the left of the map), or click on the numbers in the circles (which will be squares, if you’re using Internet Explorer).

Individual NPAs are then shown on the map as a blue balloon.  To view information about each area, hover your mouse over the balloon, and the information will display in the top right hand corner of the map.OSM-swzoom

Alongside the map, we have the second main data source: the Twitter conversation under the #NeighbourhoodPlanning hash tag.  You can join in the conversation by clicking on the box at the bottom of the list – note this may not work correctly if you’re using the Firefox browser.

The third data source is local photographs published via  To view these, click on the balloon icon for the area of interest.  Photos are then retrieved directly from Panoramio in real-time, and displayed in an interactive gallery beneath the map.   Of course, you could always add more photos by uploading them to Panoramio!


Improving the map: get involved!

The underlying data is held in OpenStreetMap.  This is a global initiative to “create and provide free geographic data, such as street maps, to anyone”.  The project is managed by the OpenStreetMap Foundation, “an international not-for-profit organization supporting, but not controlling, the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and to providing geospatial data for anyone to use and share”.

This means that the data on the map is open and available to NPAs to edit and improve.   I’d value your help to do that, in two main areas.

Firstly, I’d like to extend the map beyond points, to show the boundaries of each NPA.   I have published a proposal for achieving that on this OpenStreetMap wiki.  Please get in touch if you’re interested in helping out.

Secondly, it would be great to see Local Communities mapping more detailed information within their NPA: e.g. to show areas targeted for housing development.    There are various free tools available for editing OpenStreetMap. For further information, please visit the Beginners Guide, and the list of editing tools.  I use JOSM.  Potlatch is great too for editing in the browser.


One response to “Neighbourhood Planning – mapping the change

  1. Pingback: Open Dibley – unlocking data about parishes and related local areas | Open Data Blog·

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