NSG Exemplar Award: Highly Commended – ‘Best Integration’ 2006: Swindon Borough Council.
Swindon is a fast growing town. Keeping up to date with new developments poses real challenges for the planners and for those departments delivering services to the public. As a unitary authority Swindon has responsibility for two gazetteers, the LSG and the LLPG. The quality of these gazetteers is of course a reflection of how well the council can keep abreast of the town’s rapid expansion. By streamlining processes and through some clever integration, the council gazetteers have reached a very high standard of quality and completeness.
In normal circumstances it might take seven-eight months for localised mapping to become available to enable complete gazetteer updates. However, Swindon Council knows about properties and streets before they are even built and within a day of the street naming and numbering process.
Any new development has to go through planning, whether it is for housing, industrial buildings or public amenities such as hospitals. The Planning Department at Swindon uses a Slave GMS to manage the planning process. The team in the Highways Department responsible for the LSG and LLPG needed to find out when planning approval had been granted so that the gazetteers can become be ‘aware’ of the new developments as early as possible.
In the past the Highways department would receive a brown envelope containing all the latest approvals once every two weeks. Sorting and sifting through these was a laborious process. When their GMS was introduced an alternative method of receiving this information was possible.
The Highways Department, developed a simple Access Database, called HITS. This database is directly linked via ODBC to the Planning GMS and is populated by details of planning approvals as and 47 when they are granted. HIT is highly automated and is looked after by Swindon’s Street Naming and Numbering Officer. Depending on the type of approval, for example a development of 75 houses, HITS will automatically generate a letter to the developer requesting copies of the site plans. The letter explains that receipt of the plans is necessary for the Royal, the Emergency Services and Council Departments. The Section 38 form sent to developers as part of the highways approval process unusually stipulates that the drawings must be provided in digital format with the required scale and colour coding.
Having an accurate site plan even before work has commenced on site is very useful because it captures all the information at an early stage. Once plans are received from developers, the street naming and numbering process can start. The information can, if supplied electronically by the developer, be imported into the GMS, which handles both the LSG and LLPG. This local knowledge is vital to enable the Council to function, collect revenue and deliver services as soon as they are needed. Once a plan and road layout is available several things then happen automatically: Street naming and numbering; LSG updates; LLPG updates; council systems updates; On line information becomes available using a simple search tool showing the location of any new properties and streets.
The beauty of this system is that it is completely joined up and council departments and personnel can really benefit from the up to date information instead of having to wait weeks or even months. This is particularly well received by departments like social services, as their home workers can now find all addresses without any delay.
‘...providing joined-up services designed around the needs of the citizen or business will yield efficiency savings by reducing duplication across the public sector.’- Sir David Varney (Dec 2006); Service Transformation.
- Planning approvals initiate the street naming and numbering process.
- Street naming and numbering is highly automated and feeds directly into gazetteer creation and maintenance with almost no delay.
- The creation and maintenance of gazetteers is streamlined making the best use of resources with both gazetteers managed by the same software package.
- Transportation sections have all new streets information available on the day of naming.
- All council departments and systems benefit from the availability of up to date information.