Sudbury takes the lead in sharing geographic information
Sudbury Town Council is changing the way it delivers information services by using Cadcorp GIS software to manage OS digital mapping acquired under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA).
The council’s responsibilities
Birthplace of the famous portrait and landscape artist Thomas Gainsborough, the thriving market town of Sudbury is the largest of the town and parish councils in the district of Babergh, Suffolk. The town council is responsible for providing services such as allotments, cemeteries and markets to its parish of 13,000 people.
In partnership with the district and county councils the town council also runs an Advice Centre, based at Sudbury Town Hall. It is an invaluable local service dealing with more than 15,000 face to face visits per annum, from local people and visitors alike. With its dedicated and highly trained staff the council is able to offer advice on issues such as council tax, housing registration, tourism, environmental issues and bus passes.
Community wardens and place-based information
Bradley Smith, community warden, explains the significance of geographic information to his work: ”I am one of three community wardens employed by the town council in partnership with Babergh District and four of Sudbury’s neighbouring parishes. We are the eyes and ears of the community providing a visible presence in the town. We are the point of contact for the services which Sudbury provides, and for the reporting of dog fouling, graffiti, abandoned vehicles and vandalism. In order to carry out our work, we need to have accurate and up-to-date place-based information at our finger tips. Until recently, my main source of information was a photocopied map of the Sudbury and neighbouring parishes stuck to the wall of my office.
“I could interpret my scribbles, however, I couldn’t share them with my colleagues in the council. Nor could I share them with the agencies we partner with – parish, district and county councils, housing associations, the police, and schools. I had read about the Public Sector Mapping agreement and decided to see how we could make better use of digital mapping from Ordnance Survey.”
Map data, and mapping software
In January 2016, Sudbury invited quotations from a number of GIS software vendors. It was to supply application software to manage the OS mapping products which the town council was entitled to use under the PSMA. Bradley continued “We asked vendors to demonstrate their products in February, and in March we selected Cadcorp as our GIS supplier. By April I had been trained in Cadcorp SIS software, and I was soon using it to share geographic information with my colleagues.”
Sudbury has taken the following map layers from Ordnance Survey: 1:50 000 Scale Colour Raster, 1:2,500 Large Scale Vector, OS OpenData OS Street View® and the product most widely used in Sudbury, OS MasterMap Topography Layer. Bradley is responsible for managing this background mapping using the Cadcorp Map Manager desktop GIS software. He also uses the same desktop software as a vehicle for adding Sudbury’s own business data. He is now able to what he couldn’t do previously – which is share map data - using Cadcorp’s free-to-use desktop application, Map Express. To date, Map Express is installed on twelve PCs in the council.
Having access to mapping under PSMA has been transformed the way community wardens work, as Bradley explains: “Firstly, we can now measure the extent of features in and around the parish without having to go on-site. Having an accurate measure of green areas to be maintained puts us in a much better negotiating position with our grounds maintenance contractors. We can also measure the lengths of Christmas lighting by building façade, to a sufficient level of accuracy without using laser rangefinders in the field.
“Secondly, we can now relate and record on maps what we see on the ground in relation to what we know about land ownership. Using OS mapping in a GIS has thrown up some interesting anomalies. For example the town council had been mistakenly bearing the cost of maintaining a particular plot of land for the past eight years. Maps revealed that the land was actually owned by a housing association. We alerted the association, which was delighted to discover it had a new asset, and the town council has relieved itself of a grounds maintenance expense. Similarly there have been instances where property developers have erected fences in the wrong place. They simply didn’t coincide with their extent of their land ownership, and we have been able to inform them.
“Finally – and this is biggest benefit - we can now share spatial information much more easily. The town council is both a recipient and a donor of geographic information. We take information in digital form from the district and county councils – on waste services for example - and we can make this available for sharing through our Advice Centre.
“Community wardens such as myself, also do contracting work on behalf of neighbouring parish councils. These parishes are probably too small and understaffed to invest in managing their own map data in a GIS. However, we have a vested interest in making sure the map data which supports our work in the parishes is up to date. And while the smaller parishes may never be in position to manage their own GIS, once they have signed up to the PSMA I can envisage them sharing our mapping through the free-to-use Map Express viewing product.”
“We chose Cadcorp as their staff did their homework in understanding our very specific needs as a town council. And they were able to demonstrate – using our own data - just how Cadcorp SIS software was able to meet these needs." (Bradley Smith, Community Warden, Sudbury Town Council)