The key objective of IT is delivering the right information to the right place at the right time. And the London Borough of Richmond on Thames has done just that with its RichMAP project, writes Mike Simons.
RichMAP was developed in-house as a bridge between the borough's geographic information system (GIS) and other data sets, particularly those held by the planning and building control departments. The project draws together diverse geographic and tabular information, and enables non-technical users to interrogate that data rapidly and accurately.
RichMAP faced several challenges. It had to be simple, logical and easy to use. It had to integrate all the departments' data, both textual and spatial. It had to allow "one stop" access, and it had to be carried out with no capital expenditure.
The application was developed using Microsoft Visual Basic 6, and effectively acts as a toolbar for users, allowing them to simplify and automate many tasks. It sits on top of the council's existing GIS product - dataMAP, from SIA - and interfaces with this application and other databases.
Powerful search facilities enable a user to find any location in the borough by address, road or postcode. Every property in the borough has been digitised and addressed, so the traditional database can be linked to the parcels of land. Clicking on a parcel will, for example, display the planning history of a site.
Users can then carry out a sophisticated spatial search that extracts all the constraints on land use, such as location in a conservation area, or a listed building standing on the site.
For consultation and automated printing, areas can be simply extracted. Other digital data - such as aerial photographs of the whole borough supplied by Geo Information Group, A-to-Z maps, preserved trees and street lighting - can be switched on or off with a click.
The system has greatly reduced the time taken to obtain information, increased performance in responding to phone queries, and saved about 20 hours of work by council officers a day.
- Capture of 80,000 addressed land parcels
- GIS users boosted from six to 112
- Access to all available information about a piece of land
- Acceptance by staff of all ages and experiences.
- Staff involvement - they were shown initial system and could suggest refinements, key users could test the system, and training was given during roll-out