Weeknote — 2020-12-02

Digital land sprint notes

The main focus for this sprint has been to pilot collecting development plan data from 3 local authorities.

Development plan documents

This sprint we launched a pilot with 3 local authorities (Southwark, Lambeth and Buckinghamshire) designed to help us collect development plan data.

Loïc, Colm and Matt, prepared and published some guidance to help users in local authorities produce their data. This time we are trialling a different approach to our guidance. Previously, we have presented users with technical guidance that runs them through each expected field of the required data. However, it felt quite removed from users’ day jobs and planted them straight into an unfamiliar data world. To try to rectify that, we have split the guidance into 3 parts; collect, record and publish, with only the record section covering the unfamiliar data requirements.

This type of work is heavily dependent on our ability to work with local authorities to produce high-quality data. To help us better understand the steps a Local Authority user goes through when producing data, Loïc has been working on an experience map, overlaying it with our findings to date.

The next stage of the pilot is to collect data that the 3 local authorities have produced, analyse it and publish it on the digital land site.

Digital land pipeline

Jon, Kishan and Paul have done lots of work under the hood to improve the performance and utility of the digital land pipeline.

Jon has changed the architecture of the pipeline to use a python package called pluggy. This allows us to separate out the core pipeline code, keeping it as simple and general as possible. It will only include the functionality needed by all our collectors.

Then any other functionality required by a collector, for example when a collector such as the conservation area collector needs to handle geospatial data, can be added to just that instance via plugins and/or extensions. This will help us maintain our code base as the number of collectors we run grows.

Kishan has vastly improved the speed of the pipeline. Previously, as the pipeline ran a collected file through the [various stages] it used to do a lot of reading and writing of files to disk. In computer terms this is slow.

And finally, Paul, with the help of Jon and Kishan, has been rationalising the collectors we run. As we have set up new collectors they have all been a slightly different shape, we have fixed that so that they look the same. The biggest challenge was switching off the old brownfield collector (the first collector we set up) and replacing it with a new brownfield collector that includes all the improvements we’ve made over the last 18+ months.

Paul also created a template collector that all new collectors will build upon, this will speed up the creation of new collectors.

Brownfield land

Colm has been working to improve our national map of brownfield land data. The map displays all the brownfield land sites we have collected from Local Authorities.

The new version of the map lets users search for an organisation and see all the brownfield land data they have published, as well as see the data for a specific brownfield site.

The next step is to collect any missing organisation boundaries, such as the boundaries for National Park Authorities, and add them to the map as well.

Policy and PropTech

In the PropTech world, Jess caught up with the UK PropTech Association, British Property Federation, and HM Land Registry about ways to support specific projects. She also spoke with new mortgage lender Generation Home, joined by homeownership policymakers from both the UK and Canada on the same call.

With a number of events happening, Jess joined a panel about tech and innovation at Viability & Planning 2020, spoke at a Crown Commercial Services show & tell about our experience procuring pilots, and enjoyed attending the UK PropTech Association awards to celebrate a wide range of achievements.

Rishi and Euan have worked on developing options for digital planning alongside planning colleagues, to deliver the ambitions of the Planning for the Future White Paper.


Digital Land and the wider MHCLG digital directorate are hiring, come join us!

You can find the available roles on the MHCLG blog.