Arun District Council in West Sussex is using GIS and web mapping technology from British software developer Cadcorp, to power a range of internal and public-facing geospatial applications.
When Arun District Council was informed by its software supplier that the internet and intranet GIS products it was using were nearing end-of-life and would no longer be supported, the Council went to the market to find replacements. Following an open and competitive tendering process, Arun District Council (ADC) chose to deploy GIS technology from Cadcorp. Today that technology is being used throughout Arun.
Peter Marsh, Systems Development Manager at ADC explains what the council was looking for in a replacement. He said: “The procurement exercise was initiated by the pressing need to replace both internal and public-facing web GIS products. However, we weren’t simply looking for like-for-like replacements. We wanted to use the opportunity to enhance the editing capabilities of our internal web GIS, and retire some of our desktop GIS licences. We also wanted to replace an existing spatial data warehouse and data loader, with one based on the council’s preferred database architecture – Microsoft SQL Server. It had to be easy for us to load all Ordnance Survey PSMA and OpenData layers into that spatial database. Cadcorp could meet all of these requirements.”
Cadcorp’s flagship web mapping product, Web Map Layers, is playing a central role in helping deliver strategic benefits to the Council, as Peter explains: “Behind the technical requirements for our new corporate GIS was the council’s business objective of encouraging customer self-service. A tighter integration between GIS and the council website can help us achieve that objective. We have found Web Map Layers to be well-suited for this purpose.”
Web Map Layers will be the basis of ‘My Arun’, a new facility the Council is developing to help members of the public find the information that is personal to them. The council is also using Web Map Layers to support ‘choice-based letting’ of Council properties in Arun, through a self-service application accessed via the Council website. Peter explains how it works: “When tenants click on property of interest, they’re shown the location of the property on a map together with information about facilities close to the address, such as schools, bus stops, and doctors’ surgeries. This information about a locality – ‘local knowledge’ – is collated behind the scenes and presented to the user in summary form. The responsive application can be accessed from PCs, tablets, and mobile devices, adjusting the display to suit the device.”
The Planning Department within ADC is also using Web Map Layers to support their Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA). This is a technical study that assesses the suitability and availability of land for development. Web Map Layers is being used to depict individual land parcels as polygons which can be viewed online against a backdrop of Ordnance Survey maps or aerial photography. Clicking on a land parcel reveals its name, address and unique identifier. By clicking on ‘show more’ the user can drill down into more information held in a back office planning system. Maps can be navigated by panning and zooming, by entering an address, or by clicking on a bookmark that takes the user to predefined destinations.
Peter describes the suitability of Web Map Layers for such a specific application as this. “Planning needed a simple map which it could publish quickly and easily. Since Web Map Layers is an out-of-the box product, building an application such as the HELAA viewer was an exercise in customisation rather than development. It was a straightforward task to specify the map layers in SQL Server to populate the application, and a simple matter to link to our Local Land and Property Gazetteer to provide address-searching. From the user’s perspective, the ease of use of Web Map Layers is very appealing. The ability to easily customise means we are in complete control of which functionality to present to the user. We are not afraid to turn off functionality if we think it is not needed by an application.”
Martin McGarry, managing director at Cadcorp said: “The experience of Arun District Council shows that it is possible to transform what was a problem – the withdrawal of GIS software support – into an opportunity; an opportunity to do different things and to do things differently.”