Councils Explore Online Mapping Tools

A number of councils across the UK are choosing alternative options for online mapping.

All parts of the public sector have access to a wide range of services from the government-owned mapping agency Ordnance Survey and every local authority makes use of some of the data through OS. A number of councils are choosing alternative options however for online mapping; with several using Google maps and others adopting the wiki-mapping service OpenStreetMap (OSM).

The Ordnance survey has been expanding the range of online services and interfaces for its users and has resulted in a range of choices for online mapping.

Ordnance Survey has been slower to offer the latest services, however has won in terms of accuracy.

Plymouth City Council use Google Maps to present data on traffic and roadworks in the area.

Corporate web manager for Plymouth City Council, David Hodder, said: "Whether we love or hate Google, it's a product people use.

"From our point of view, there's almost zero maintenance after it's created."

Hodder believes online mapping services are accurate, but nowhere near the finished article.

He added: "We look at maps in two different ways. There are parks, car parks, nature reserves and so on where it doesn't matter if the pin is five metres to the north.

"Then you've got the operational side of things like planning, where you need to be perfect. We wouldn't use Google Maps for the operational maps."

Surrey Heath Borough Council was an early adopter of OSM. GIS manager, James Rutter, said: "When we started we had the M3 motorway running through the borough and that was it."

Rutter then formed a syndicate with the other Surrey districts to buy the data rights to an aerial survey, and believes many cities are locked into proprietary systems for their websites but Surrey council has made a shift to open-source platforms to generate maps.

He said: "With online mapping, we're also going down the road of consuming services already out there, instead of reinventing the wheel.

"There are still people happy to sit behind their £20,000 GIS installation and get it to do everything. Local authorities shouldn't be paying to build their own infrastructure when there's infrastructure out in the cloud we can use for not much money."

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