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.


Cambridgeshire County Council employee; Geographic Information Sytems Manager. Impington (Cambridge) Parish Councillor; Chairman, Webmaster et al. Archer (longbow, recurve). Married to Jan, father of Ben

Posted in GIS

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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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