Sunday 15 January 2012

England's Green Belt - 'Closed' Data

At the moment I'm doing some work related to housing market search behaviour and I have a very interesting dataset for it. I thought it would be nice to compare housing market search patterns to where areas of green belt land in England are. This is where I ran into problems. Everyone knows that there is green belt land in England, but knowing precisely where it is and how to get this in digital format is more difficult.

It seems that, for whatever reason, Landmark Information Group have the rights to the data, as you can also see from this BBC map. The problem is, I was quoted a price of £35,000 + VAT for the full dataset. I've nothing against Landmark but I couldn't figure out why it would be so costly or why it is not open data. To cut a long story short, I got the data directly from the Department for Communities and Local Government but the licence means I can't really do much with it publicly, so I've made a small map below showing what it looks like.

The problem with this is that if a normal person* just wants to check which areas of the country are green belt and which aren't (and given current proposals to reform the planning system in England, this is quite important!), it cannot be done easily, if at all. What I'd really like to do is take the green belt shape file and put it on top of a Google map and then let the world see it. But it's not my data, it's not open data, so I can't. This seems like a pity and not just because I'm addicted to mapping things. It seems like a pity because this information should, I feel, be in the public domain in an accessible format. 

*Clearly, I'm not a normal person or I would be doing something else at this time of day/week.