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Development of GIS as a key service for Maldon District Council

Spatial information enables smarter working and collaboration. The recent launch of its new Internal mapping solution 'Phoenix Maps' is transforming the way Maldon District Council works with spatial information. The new system links into well maintained data, providing simple application-based solutions and tools initially for officers and councillors.

Development of GIS as a key service - Maldon District Council
The estuary at Maldon in Essex

Addresses pulled from the GIS feed a growing array of focussed apps, enabling officers to self-serve, enable decision making and improve processes. UPRNs and addresses feature in most of the search functions within the apps. They range from ‘find the nearest polling station’ to ‘town centre business rate analysis’ or’ managing planning applications’. Mobile applications are used within key teams such as planning and asset management, reducing the need for hard copy prints whilst enabling real time updates to applications and dashboards.

A corporate public facing solution is also underway reusing data services to deliver GIS web apps. Initial solutions are being well used and addressing real needs such as Cost of Living support services, Heritage Assets linking to Historic England Open Data and an innovative Call for Sites dashboard.

The Challenge

Maldon District Council’s GIS solution was dormant. It was using out of date software, under-utilised, and in need of a clear strategy to enable it to develop as a key decision making tool. A lot of council teams are stretched and using slow defined processes in their business as usual. Planning officers must review numerous disparate data sources and systems when assessing applications. Enforcement officers, tree inspectors and election teams reference spreadsheets that contain address and location based information. Officers in the field relied on paper print outs with no mobile mapping solution in place.

These shortcomings were highlighted when it was realised there was no geospatial capacity within the council to support the review of the Local Development Plan. A call to action was instigated. On the positive side, the addresses in the Local Land and Property Gazetteer were well maintained. A new post was created to support with the Local Development Plan but also to develop geospatial as a key service within Maldon District Council.

Maldon District Council - Development of GIS
Summer houses at Mill Beach, Maldon

The Solution

The Senior Geospatial Analyst instigated an immediate review of the GIS solution in place, the capabilities and offerings, as well as the current level of engagement and understanding of GIS within the council. The current GIS web solution was unsupported. Therefore, a parallel solution was put in place consisting of new database, application, web, and admin servers.

An updated GIS was deployed to provide secure web solutions for internal users as well as provide services that would be ingested by public users. It was key to provide an easy user experience for all staff and councillors. Officers devised a landing page containing a gallery of new focussed web apps. This also contained links to rebuilt public web apps.

The new software enabled the team to easily build new web maps and apps that focussed on specific business needs and themes. Promotion and engagement with staff were important to success. A well-publicized soft launch took place on World GIS day last November. This included demos, quizzes, sample tools, apps and of course cake. Following the launch, targeted meetings with key teams is reaping rewards as they gain understanding into how good quality geospatial data can be shared and re-used in lots of ways.

Work has begun to replicate the user experience from Enterprise Portal to the public facing GIS hub. This will improve the customer experience with a useful gallery format, helpful links, guidance and enable the council to share Open Data.

The Results

Moving to an Enterprise Licence Agreement with the GIS supplier provided access to current software, a wide range of extensions and more importantly many more viewer and creator accounts. The council is now getting value for money with the annual maintenance paid for GIS software.

All council staff now have access to internal web apps that can be restricted to groups or teams plus functionality to edit if required. One source of truth enables key datasets to be used in other applications all based on accurate address data. Phoenix Maps is growing in usage and underpinning some key team’s ‘business as usual’ processes.

There are noticeable savings in officer time from access to more accurate information that provide the bigger picture. Enabling Smart Working and Self-Service of useful, well managed spatial information is at the heart of what Maldon District Council aims to achieve.

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