Planning applications in my neighbourhood

Planning applications in my neighbourhood

Mapping new potential developments in the local area

Overview

What was made: 

I created a map that shows recent planning applications in the neighbourhood. You can see the status of the application (yet to be decided, or what the decision was); see a short description of what the application is for; see a link to read the full application on the council website. I’ve embedded the map into the association’s website and they are very happy with this feature.

Background and objectives: 

A few years ago my company created a community website for the village association of where I used to live. I was recently updating the site and noticed the planning applications page seemed a bit empty and not so useful. Being a great fan of maps and also wanting to try to make something useful for the audience of the association's website, I wanted to create a map that people can use to see recent planning applications near them.

The objectives were;

  • Create an easy to use map to show recent planning applications in the neighbourhood

  • Embed it into the village association website so the village residents and businesses can see information that is relevant to them. 

Outcome: 

There are some downsides to it however. I needed to download, save the file and upload it to cartoDB to work - this means it isn’t live data so I will need to do this process every now and then in order to keep the map up to date and relevant. I couldn’t filter the results using PostGIS which may provide more accurate results. I was lucky that the dataset contained the village name and most of the results were limited to the village. I’d like to be able to use PostGIS and get live data working with it in a future story. If you have any experience or links to resources that are helpful in achieving this, please comment below! Any advice welcome.

How it was made

Finding the dataset

I searched online for ‘Mole Valley planning applications open data’ and the top result led me to a page on the Mole Valley council website that lists the open data sets they have.

They show three different file types for ‘Current and last 100 days of planning applications’ in GeoRSS; XML and CSV

Feeling during this step: 
4
No
File type fiasco

I click on each of the links and each shows me a web page with what looks like a lot of results unformatted and joined together in a big block of text.

There isn’t much in terms of guidelines on about which types to use apart from that GeoRSS can be used to plot records on a map like google maps. This is promising as I want to plot the results on a map.

I’ve used CartoDB a little bit in the past and like how it makes making maps easy. I try adding the URLs from each of the formats from the MVDC site. Errors each time.

I tried copying the GeoRSS link into the form for Carto DB but it says i need to upgrade to sync, as I don’t want to pay I choose ‘connect database’ but this also results in an error.

Attempt at converting GeoRSS to GeoJSON

I’m aware that CartoDB can use GeoJSON files, having used them in the past. I searched online about doing this and found this post on StackExchange. 

http://opendata.stackexchange.com/questions/1181/is-there-a-tool-to-convert-georss-into-geojson

It refers to a tool here

http://ogre.adc4gis.com/

This didn’t work for me yet again so I give up on this idea.

Software: 
Feeling during this step: 
1
Yes
Success with CSV file type

After having tried a number of permutations on adding links or downloading and uploading the files, I finally got some kind of result with downloading the CSV file from the MVDC site and uploading the CSV file to CartoDB.

I have a large table to data which does not have geocoded information. I do have columns that appear to contain lat and log though so I clicked on Geocode in Carto and it magically codes each row properly :D

Software: 
Feeling during this step: 
5
Yes
Showing information

Information when clicking on dots

When selecting the ‘infowindow’ option from the side menu in CartoDB it shows you a list of all the columns/fields from the table.  There are also switches to show/hide each field and choose to show the title or not. I choose to show the casetext which shows a summary of what the planning application is for; the caseurl which provides a link to the full planning application on the council’s website if you want to know more; decision - whether the application was approved/denied or some other result; decisiondate - when the application decision was made; and the status - if it has been decided or is live - although this information is also portrayed via the colour of the dots on the map - green for live and blue for decided.

Software: 
Feeling during this step: 
4
Yes
Improving colours

The original colours for showing the status of the applications and therefore the colours of the dots was not very clear. Light green, dark green, light blue and dark blue were the original colours. I decided to make them more distinctive by changing Appeal = Yellow; Decided = Blue; Invalid = Red; Live = Green.

I was able to change this in two ways:

  1. Using the Wizard option from the side menu in CartoDB
  2. Using the CSS option from the side menu to edit the CSS colours directly

Both were straight forward, but the wizard may be easier if unfamiliar with CSS.

Software: 
Skills: 
Feeling during this step: 
4
Yes
Filtering by location attempt

My map was showing results for the whole of the local district, whereas I only wanted to show the results for the village of Westcott. I searched online for ‘filter cartoDB results by location’ and clicked through the results to this resource from CartoDB - https://docs.cartodb.com/cartodb-editor/managing-your-data/

PostGIS SQL

The post links to PostGIS which says you can use for answering questions like “how many points from one dataset are located within a polygon from another dataset" or "give me all my data within 50km of a certain latitude-longitude coordinate" - the latter sounded like what I needed so I clicked through to the documentation http://postgis.net/documentation/

Because I'm lazy I click through straight to the cheatsheet to see if it might help… but as a newbie it is a bit overwhelming for me so I decided I should perhaps looks at the intro first! http://workshops.boundlessgeo.com/postgis-intro/

I read a few pages but couldn’t see any advice on filtering by distance. With my attention span waning I give up on this option and look at another search result.

Software: 
Skills: 
Feeling during this step: 
1
Yes
CartoDB Filters

CartoDB Filters

Another search result links me to a video tutorial on filters by CartoDB - https://docs.cartodb.com/tutorials/filters/ .

Upon looking at the table view of the data I uploaded, I see that the location of the planning applications is listed. As I’m interested in just results for the village of Westcott I tried adding a filter to locationtext for ‘Westcott’ and to my surprise, it pretty much works. Limiting my results to the area of the village, apart from one result that is closer to the neighbouring town. This is due to the address having ‘Westcott' in its road name.  

Recent Applications

Although the dataset from MVDC is supposed to show the current and last 100 days of applications, it seems to show results beyond this.In the 'filters' option from the side menu, I selected to show only results from 2016 in the casedate field.

Software: 
Feeling during this step: 
5
Yes
Success?

So I managed to create an interactive map that shows recent planning applications relevant to the village. I embedded it into the village association’s website.

I’m not feeling quite so satisfied though - I would have liked to have filtered the results by distance or even better by drawing the area I want to include. Another issue is that I’ll need to manually upload the file in the future as it isn’t updating automatically.

Fixing both of these issues is currently out of my abilities, but I hope to revisit the project again and be able to improve it.

If you have any thoughts or tips on how I can improve - please let me know!

Software: 
Feeling during this step: 
4
Yes