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Underpinning conservation

Best Practice for use of Polygons 2007: Surrey Heath Borough Council.

Surrey Heath has introduced an innovative new application to its public facing website called ‘My Protected Trees’. The application allows a citizen to carry out an address-based search to check to see if any of the trees around their home are protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) subject to a particular planning application, or situated in a conservation area. This application replaces manual processes, which used to entail checking several sources of council held data and onward communication of the results of the search.

A typical search reveals an aerial photograph of the property with the extent of the land parcel outlined in green and lists any existing TPOs or planning applications, which might affect trees on the property. These are hyperlinked to the Borough’s online planning portal to reveal further detail. Users can also request a detailed PDF containing the search results, which is presented in the browser for optional download. Notification of each successful search is also sent to the Borough’s Tree Preservation Officer so he is aware of the properties for which searches are being carried out. This software solution is completely automated and seamless to the user.

Surrey Heath has been able to do this because of the high quality of its data and in particular its LLPG. A major exercise in the mid 1990s was undertaken to produce accurate polygons for every property within the borough and this process has continued ever since. There are now over 40,000 Basic Land and Property Units (BLPU) polygons included in the LLPG each identified by a UPRN.

‘My Protected Trees’ provides members of the public, staff in the contact centre, the Tree Preservation Officer and other professionals such as tree surgeons and property developers with round the clock access to accurate tree protection information.

Used very much as a proof of concept, Surrey Heath has now embarked on a much larger project using the same technology in a much bigger application called ‘My Surrey Heath’ which provides citizens with an address centred search facility providing wide variety of service and facility related information such as refuse and recycling, planning, and education.

My Protected Trees is a completely automated application which requires no maintenance. It ticks a lot of boxes, saving time and providing more accurate information in the process. Now that the software and data infrastructure is in place and it works, Surrey Heath will be offering significantly more information via the web service related to precisely where people live.

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