GIS – data or no data

OK – local data or no local data.

GI systems are data hungry, but maintaining that data is an overhead we could do without. Currency, completeness, accuracy – wouldn’t it be great if we could leave all of those issues to the data owner – and just get on with the real work?

Looking around it’s surprising just how much you can do! And at zero cost. And as cost is the issue, then it’s got to be QGIS – and you’re not losing functionality by that choice.

First, a base map. Ideally, Ordnance Survey – of course. OS OnDemand is the product – but is chargeable. OS Maps is available for free – but not available as a web service.

untitledOK – so what else is available? Loading the right plugin into QGIS immediately gives you access to a choice – given the quality in the Cambridge area my first choice is Open Street Map – but you’ve got the full choice:

So what next? is a great starting point. Environment Agency data (there’s a great deal of that given their plan to release 8,000 free datasets), Communities, local Councils – it’s all there.

So, let’s start with flood zones. Flood zones 2 and 3 from the Environment Agency, with OSM background mapping. You could do it with Google mapping – but the added detail from OSM (or Ordnance Survey if you can get it) makes the map – and you can zoom in!
impflood-zones impflood-zones-ggle

Adding Listed Buildings from the Environment Agency, and then Green Belt (from Communities) gives this.

LIDAR data is also available, but this is Cambridgeshire – one of our local roads used to be Mill Hill Lane – height variation is 3 metres top to bottom – so I’ll pass on that (the Qgisthreejs plugin, though is a great tool to use with suitable height data, say, including housing – even in Impington!).




What about local data – data from County/District Councils? There are two possibles – INSPIRE and WMS/WFS.

village-green-propertySome of the County Council is really interesting. The shaded area is the legal definition of the village green – important, and sadly in places an area of dispute. That this dataset hasn’t been updated recently isn’t important – it doesn’t change!

The other polygons show owned (and leased) property – one of the village schools, and the library.


Here we have an air quality management area (and the location of some monitoring stations) for South Cambridgeshire. They add allotments, article 4 designations (if you know what those are, you know they can be important!), tree preservation orders – all good stuff.


And if (IF) principal authorities (eg County Council, as in this example) could be persuaded  to publish data via WFS feeds (and this is just a small sample of it – adopted roads, rights of way, property and farms estate, drainage) what a rich resource there is! And not only points, lines, polygons – but all the attribute data that goes with it.


There’s a vast amount that can be done with GI data that doesn’t have to be downloaded, and will be up to date.

And, a request to data owners, publish all of your data, at least via WMS, preferably via WFS.

Posted in GIS

Retirement – one week in

Feet up, read the paper, get back to hobbies. Not yet.

Three days/four interviews back in the office for a start ….


  • Three including County officers – two Histon & Impington specific, one about the coming Parish Conference.
  • Two Parish Council
  • One archery club one.

Gardening – some but not enough

Breadmaking – none; cake making, none – but at least two booked, and the ginger biscuits

Exercise – better, almost 10,000 steps yesterday – and rather more deep sleep (or so my Xiaomi Mi Band tells me)

Oh, and the Histon & Impington newspaper going to the printers tomorrow.


Posted in Uncategorized

Normal service is being resumed

After a considerable break I’ll be back to blogging soon.

It’s time to step back from the coalface and take some time for myself. After a considerable time working for Cambridgeshire County Council, lately as LGSS GIS Manager, retirement (entirely voluntary) is here.

Still a Parish Councillor, still passionate about Parish Councils, Archery and a few other things – and still an Impington (and not Histon, sorry!) resident.

Posted in Uncategorized

You may have (I have) received a flyer about this – or picked up something from your GP surgery. Publicity blurb says: logoNHS DATA USE PROGRAMME ROLLS OUT ACROSS EAST OF ENGLAND

A new system to collect information from patient’s medical records that will help to provide a ‘joined-up’ picture of the country’s health and social care needs is currently underway in the region.

Every week, the NHS collects millions of pieces of data about the nature of people’s health, the way services are accessed and the types of treatments provided to support our nations’ health and wellbeing. is being delivered by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and NHS England to bring this information together so the NHS can use it to:

  • better understand and improve the health of the nation;
  • find ways of targeting, preventing, treating and managing illness and disease; and
  • better anticipate future need for services and plan and commission accordingly.

The information gathered – date of birth, full postcode, NHS Number and gender – will be used to link patient records in a secure system, managed by the HSCIC. Confidentiality is paramount and if this information is used, it will not contain information that identifies individuals. The type of information shared, and how it is shared, is controlled by law and strict confidentiality rules.

NHS England is committed to supporting patients in making informed decisions about their healthcare and how their information is used. The awareness campaign explains what information will be used as part of and makes it clear how people can opt out if they choose to do so.

 NHS Choices already contains a wide range of information about on its website – – with sections for both health professionals and patients/the public.

The first data extraction takes place in March 2014.

You wouldn’t expect them to say anything else – but others are!

There are a number of organisations / people / GPs arguing that we should opt out of the scheme. Note this is nothing to do with summary care data – the data being looked at here is for research purposes.

Here are a couple if sites arguing for opting out for now. NB You can opt in, but once your data is submitted you can’t recover it, or get it deleted – so opting out later doesn’t help! (by a GP / Caldicott Guardian) – note that each practice (etc) will be required to have a Caldicott Guardian – “each organisation to designate a senior medical officer to oversee all procedures affecting access to person-identifiable health data”

And here’s a story about a GP practice prepared to break the law around the issue:

Of course, there are others arguing the reverse – health charities reported in Computing arguing for people not to opt out.

What am I going to do? I’ve at least downloaded the form to opt out – given the history of major (government) projects I guess my personal details will get out there. But, of course, the world (or even the www, try pipl) knows a great deal about me already, so does it matter?

“Two wrongs don’t make a right” – and yes, it does matter. The Government, and its agencies, ought to be getting these things right – if my personal information should be confidential that is the way it should stay – guaranteednot “best endeavours”!

PostScript: reports the advice from the George Clare surgery (Chatteris) to it’s PPG recommending that all patients opt out of the scheme. says: Privacy experts warn there will be no way for public to work out who has their medical records or how they are using it, and then adds: Mark Davies, the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s public assurance director, told the Guardian there was a “small risk” certain patients could be “re-identified” The survey of nearly 400 GPs conducted this week found the profession split over whether to support the scheme, with 41 per cent saying they intend to opt-out, 43 per cent saying they would not opt-out and 16 per cent undecided.

Posted in Uncategorized

Impington Parish Council Final Meeting

With the new Histon & Impington Parish Council coming into existence on April 1st we’re about to have the last ever meeting of Impingon Parish Council.

Even though there is work to do with the change-over its still “business as usual” – and the first meeting of the new Council will be on April 2nd.

Its not only the end of an era for the Council – the first meeting happened on 2nd January 1895 – but also a break with the Council’s first bankers. OK – the bank is now Lloyds, but the magnificent Victorian building in the centre of Cambridge was home to the Councils first bankers, Fosters.

The new Council will, until the elections on May 3rd, be made up of all the Councillors who currently sit on Histon & Impington Parish Councils. The first item on the agenda for the 2nd will be the election of a Chairman, and that item will itself be Chaired by District Councillor Mike Mason, who has represented residents as a Councillor, both Parish and District, since the 1970s.

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Trick or Treat

Halloween (All Hallows Eve) started life as All Saints Eve – or at least in one version and whilst many churches will be holding special services most of us will be either enjoying, or not, the revelries of our young people – trick or treat etc.

If that’s something you’re not looking forward to, then Cambridgeshire Police have published posters in black & white or full colour

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Big Brother is watching you

Some of the tech press has been reporting recently that owners of iPhones are being tracked – automatically, and without the ability to disable the function. It turns out to be true, but with sufficiently low accuracy that its not really an issue – except the principle.

What I’ve found more interesting – and more confusing because I can’t see the value – is that Google knows where I am. More precisely, Google knows where my wireless router is.

Every bit of computer kit has a MAC address – and wireless routers both have one and transmit it (even if they are set up encrypted). To get the MAC address for your router (Windows) open up a command window and type “arp -a”.

Then go to and input that address. I did – and you can see the result for yourself by going to – that’s pretty accurate.

What Google (or anyone else) is going to do with that, I don’t know – but it just goes to show that you can’t hide …

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Any views and opinions expressed herein are my own personal views & opinions and do not represent those of my employer, or the Parish Council, in any way

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