September 21, 2011
Information that comes with a price tag
Greenspace Scotland, which aims to widen access to better quality, urban greenspaces has just launched what they claim to be a world first – a comprehensive map of Scotland’s Greenspace. Based on the very latest technology, the map provides all the information you might need in relation to greenspace in our urban areas. Except it doesn’t – unless you can afford the price of an OS license. Andy Wightman argues that the full fruits of this publicly funded project should be available to all
“No other country has mapped its Greenspace in this way.” A blog by Andy Wightman, 14th September 2011
Today, an organisation called Greenspace Scotland launched what they claim is a world first in mapping the location, extent and type of greenspace across all of Scotland’s urban settlements. “No other country has mapped its greenspace in this way”. In December 2006, the Scottish Executive provided £298,000 for this project (actually for three projects – it is unclear how much of this was allocated to the mapping). The interactive map is impressive and allows users to look closely at greenspace of all types across Scotland.
However, the real power of such information lies in the ability to interrogate, analyse and combine this data with other data. There are many simple tools available for this and a growing international community of citizens harnessing such data for the public good (the OpenStreeMap and GeoCommons projects are good examples)
Greenspace Scotland tell us that this “world first” map can be made available in GIS (geographic information system) format as raw data so that people can actually use the data rather than simply look at it. The GIS data is useful because, in the words of Greenspace Scotland,
The full GIS data provides an incredible resource for planners, policy makers, researchers and greenspace managers. It can be used to support cross-boundary work on green networks, planning and regeneration; and when combined with other datasets on, for example, health and deprivation, can be used to support decision-making, prioritisation, policy development and research. It can also help target resources and investment to areas with low levels of greenspace
Excellent. I happen to be interested in who owns all this greenspace, how much of it is common good land etc and so I ask for a copy of the data. At this point it becomes clear why Greenspace Scotland claim that “no other country has mapped its greenspace in this way” (my emphasis).
I am refused on the grounds that only those who have an Ordnance Survey MasterMap licence are allowed to get hold of this data. Unfortunately, the OS MasterMap data licence costs many thousands of pounds. The restriction is due to OS licensing conditions on the open distribution of “derived data”. I have been here before with the whoownsscotland project. I have the t-shirt and the scars of this encounter.
“No other country has mapped its greenspace in this way” Lets then take a look at how others have done it.
Take the City of Boulder, Colorado, for example. I can view an online map with information on planning, greenspace, flooding, transportation, landownership and lots more. (Click on eMapLink here). Alternatively, I can download the raw GIS (geographic information systems) data and interrogate it.
Indeed, for any number of cities in across the world, I can download high quality GIS data and undertake research and analysis. If, however, I want to analyse the pattern of greenspace in my own locality in North Edinburgh, I can’t.
“No other country has mapped its greenspace in this way”