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New approach to data supply saves Forestry Commission at least £50,000 a year

  • Our aim was to create data once and develop a supply system that enabled it to be used many times. Once we had the ‘light bulb’ moment when we realised this could be addressed by providing it in the form of products

    Ian Macleod, Mapping and Geodata Programme Manager

Adopting a different approach to data supply has enabled Forestry Commission to deliver significant efficiency and financial savings, whilst also meeting the requirements of the INSPIRE Directive – at no extra cost.

The challenge

Forestry Commission data was being supplied by staff, on an ad hoc basis, in response to individual user requests – a lengthy and costly process, which took at least 30 minutes to complete each time. With the imminent release of National Forest Inventory (NFI) data expected to create further demand, and the deadline for complying with the INSPIRE Directive fast approaching, Forestry Commission needed a new, cost-effective way to deliver information.

The solution

Forestry Commission datasets provide an annual ‘snapshot’ of Great Britain’s forests and woodlands, and could therefore be supplied as specific products. By creating a new product portfolio, the in-house team were able to ensure the data was provided in an easy to-use format allowing users to define their area of interest and access the relevant information.

Geographic context is provided by a range of Ordnance Survey data. This is supplied free at the point of use under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) and the One Scotland Mapping Agreement (OSMA), which allow members to make licensed data available for public viewing under licence.

The products are hosted off-site, using a cloud-based system linked to from the Forestry Commission’s public- facing website. This was developed and maintained in-house by the Forestry Commission web team. The data download site is: www.forestry.gov.uk/datadownload and it also links to various INSPIRE web mapping services (WMSs) in England, Scotland and Wales to meet INSPIRE’s discover and-view requirements.

The website took only a couple of days to develop and needs updating just a few times a year. With the costs of cloud-hosting barely reaching three figures, it provides a practical and extremely cost-effective solution for the supply of Forestry Commission data. More than 80 products have been published to date, and more than 10,000 downloads recorded. Users are non-commercial organisations such as central government, local authorities and academia, as well as individuals.

The benefits

  • Ordnance Survey data enables annual cost-savings of between £50,000 to £60,000.
  • Saves 2,500 man hours each year, enabling staff to focus on other responsibilities.
  • Enables the Forestry Commission to meet INSPIRE requirements at minimal extra cost.
  • Encourages greater use of Forestry Commission data by making it easy to use and available as individual products.
  • Enhances the Forestry Commission’s reputation among data users.
  • Meets the Government’s digital delivery agenda.

The products used

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