In 2010, all the maps used by the council were paper-based and the knowledge about what land the council owned was held by individual members of staff. As a result, the council embarked on a number of projects to create a geographical information system (GIS), which would help manage a number of services, including cemeteries, grounds maintenance, litter collection, weed spraying and the inspection of its trees.
Employing a GIS was about identifying and understanding our estate and managing our risks better so that we could provide a better service to our customers. We have been able to make efficiencies by giving our grounds maintenance contractors accurate site information and having more accurate data on our maintained areas will also enable us to make further savings when we come to retender our grounds maintenance contract.Mark Recchia, Town Clerk at Banbury Town Council
Initially, Banbury Town Council commissioned a landscape architect to conduct a GIS survey of Banbury’s parks and open spaces. This enabled the council to plot the details of the green spaces that typically would not have been included on a paper map, such as the type of grass, shrub or tree belt and any litter bins or benches. As a result of plotting tree inspection data on the map, the team at the council is now able to immediately see where urgent work is needed, the health and height of the trees, and the species. This has been particularly helpful in dealing with subsidence claims from the general public. Mapping data was accessed via the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), a licensing agreement that allows all public sector organisations across England and Wales to use geographic data provided by Ordnance Survey.
After successfully mapping its trees and open spaces, staff at Banbury Town Council realised the potential for employing a GIS across more of its services. For example, it was able to develop a land terrier to map its land and property assets. The GIS was populated with ‘registered extent’ polygons of land owned by the council, which was obtained from HM Land Registry. The council then overlaid this information with the GIS survey of the parks and open spaces, which showed land the council was actively maintaining. This quickly showed that the council was either maintaining some land that it didn’t own, or conversely, not maintaining land it did own. Information from the deeds, such as covenants, leases and title plans, were also added to the GIS – allowing the landscape team to access information at the touch of a button.
Building on its success further, the council purchased aerial photography of the whole of Banbury. By comparing the aerial photography against the GIS, the council was able to see where people had enclosed council-owned land that could become the basis for adverse possession claims, and take corrective action.
Aerial photography was also used to defend against such claims and improve services, such as the layout of allotment or cemetery plots.
- Ability to deliver improved customer services.
- GIS is being used across many different service areas.
- Through better tree maintenance and improved risk management, claims have been reduced from £40,000 to £2,000 over the past four years.
- Grounds maintenance contractors are able to access detailed and up-to-date site information.
- Increased knowledge about the council’s estate, strengthening its hand when negotiating with new and existing service contractors or identifying surplus land that could be sold.