the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

iGiGL-a-go-go

Matt Davies, GiGL Data Manager

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A new online mapping interface that allows Londoners to find London’s parks open spaces and wildlife sites has emerged out of the demise of similar services, the rise of the All London Green Grid and increasing demand for web-based access to GiGL’s key datasets.

 

At GiGL, we are increasingly being asked to deliver key datasets without the need for GIS and other desktop mapping software. iGiGL is the answer. It builds on our existing on-line mapping services: What’s In My BackYard (WIMBY) and the Wildlink ’Databank’ tool.

iGiGL also provides an alternative to two of the GLA’s web-based portals, which are no longer available, for information on green and open spaces: Wildweb, which encouraged Londoners to make the most of wild places by exploring them online before getting out and experiencing them in the real world, and, Your London, which provided information about parks and open spaces. The GLA was happy to part-fund iGiGL as a viable alternative to these two services. They were also happy to support GiGL in using iGiGL to manage wildlife sites data that, along with our open space data, underpins projects including the All London Green Grid.

As active partners in the All London Green Grid, iGiGL appealed to the Environment Agency because an interactive online mapping tool would enable the wider ALGG partnership to view, review, and share this open-space information. For this reason the EA also agreed to part-fund the project.

Inclusion of the SINC information, previously held on WildWeb, on iGiGL gives members of the public more complete information about accessible wildlife sites. The functionality of iGiGL will be especially useful for schools, environmental groups, Londoners interested in the natural world, and visitors to the capital.

It should be noted that iGiGL is not designed to provide the definitive boundary, citation or status of SINCs. For this information, ecologists, planners and other professionals requiring specific and validated data should continue to use the Request Report section of the GiGL website, or become partners.

The key to the success of iGiGL is the development of a simple to use and intuitive interface. We have made good use of open source and free software which meant our resources could be spent on making it as user-friendly as possible.

exeGesIS were appointed to develop the interface and suggested using background mapping data from Ordnance Survey rather than Google or Microsoft as there are fewer licensing restrictions – and as the Ordnance Survey are currently in dispute with Google over displaying anything that has been traced from one of their maps. The interface was developed using open source code, which has the advantage of not being tied to any particular mapping. However, users don’t need to worry about such technicalities because the mapping interface is self-explanatory

Datasets currently available on iGiGL

Open-spaces
Parks and formal gardens: London has an exceptional network of parks and gardens, from the Royal Parks and large Victorian parks through to smaller, more intimate, local neighbourhood parks and gardens. Formal gardens include the London squares common to central London, displaying high standards of horticulture and intricate landscaping. Commons and nature reserves offer less formal settings, and can provide brilliant wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Outdoor sports facilities: Whether you are looking for a playing field with designated playing pitches or a recreation ground for more informal games, many of London’s open spaces are dedicated to outdoor sports activities. Outdoor sports facilities shown on iGiGL include golf courses, bowling clubs, tennis clubs and other recreational spaces.
Other open-spaces: London is greener than you think, with hundreds of smaller green spaces ready to be enjoyed. Whether it is a local playground or allotments, grassed areas among housing estates or accessible agricultural land and city farms, there will be something for you nearby.
Publicly accessible wildlife sites
Site of Metropolitan Importance are those sites which contain the best examples of London’s habitats, sites which contain particularly rare species, rare assemblages of species or important populations of species, or sites which are of particular significance in otherwise heavily built-up areas of London.
Site of Borough Importance are sites which are important for wildlife borough-wide in the same way as the Metropolitan sites are important to the whole of London. While protection is important, management of borough sites usually allows and encourages their enjoyment by people and their use for education.
Site of Local Importance are sites of particular value to people in the immediate area (such as residents or schools). These sites may already be used for nature study or be run by management committees mainly comprised of local people.

 

 

Using iGiGL is a very simple three-step process:

 

1.     Zoom map to your area of interest, either via the gazetteer or by clicking and zooming on the map.

2.     Turn on/off wildlife sites and parks using the concertina-style key and press ‘refresh map’ to update what’s displayed. You can even adjust the transparency of the layers so it displays just the way you want.

3.     Click on sites on the map for a description of what’s there, opening times and such like. Basic information will appear in a bubble with links to a full fact-sheet.

This just the beginning for iGiGL. We’ve barely even launched and are already being asked by other GiGL partners if the functionality can be extended. The answer is an emphatic YES! Future developments could include:

  • Allowing users, with appropriate log-in access, to edit/update certain datasets, in order to keep all project partners and steering groups up to date with the current status, new contact details and other important information.
  • Allowing users to upload photos of their project/ site, which will facilitate monitoring project progress and maintenance of facilities, amongst other things
  • Allowing users to download entire datasets, in GIS format.

If you have any further suggestions for how iGiGL could be improved to meet your needs, get in touch with Matt Davies matt.davies@gigl.org.uk.

2 Comments

  1. Dave Dawson on November 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Having read the blurb by Matt in the July GIGLer, and having consulted igigl again, I have some difficulties with the “Wildlife Sites” part of igigl.

    Like it or not, people will use the information on the sites locally, as I have recently in relation to issues over the conservation of Wimbledon Park. Here, I have had to fall back on the Ecology Handbook “Nature Conservation in Merton” as the sites shown by igigl are misleading in several ways. This may be in part because the London Boroughs concerned have revised their sites without adequate consultation with interested parties, but equally could reflect judgements and errors by those who prepared the maps.

    I don’t know whether the local problems that I have found are more general, but fear they may be.

    I use the Wimbledon Park area as an example.

    The map shows part of Wimbledon Park in Merton as a Grade I and the Buddpadipa Temple as a Grade II, but not the District Line railsides, the part of Wimbledon Park in Wandsworth, nor Horse Close Wood. I cannot account for these differences as:

    1. The Wimbledon Park Golf Course is divided artificially by the borough boundary, where there is no difference on the ground. Neither is accessible to the public, unless one counts an experience across the long boundaries with the public park and Wimbledon Park Road. So, why is one included and the other not?

    2. Horse Close Wood is accessible to the public and only some 225m from the Wandsworth/Merton boundary. So, it is an essential part of the complement of accessible sites for Merton, even if situated just within Wandsworth. As such, it was properly shown in the end page of “Nature Conservation in Merton”. So, why is it no longer considered mappable?

    3. The District Line railsides are now continuous with hedgerows on the east edge of Wimbledon Park and provide just as much access to nature as do the bits of the Park referred to in (1) above. So, why are these considered as not providing access to nature when other bits adjacent to the park are judged differently. A similar point could be made about the linesides between Wimbledon and Raynes Park, where there is a walking route to the west, contiguous with this site along its entire length. These two sites are accessible by any sensible definition.

    4. The Buddapadipa Temple is not freely accessible to the public, nor able to be viewed well from any public place (it is open for some two or three Buddist celebrations p.a., but this is hardly significant public access), yet it is indicated on the map.

    You will be aware that judgement of access to nature involves many nice distinctions and so may not be seen as sensible. I would suggest that, if this judgement is not a common sense one, the maps will be misleading. It could be that some of these discrepancies reflect judgements made by the individual boroughs. This is something that always will present difficulties, as the planning view is seamless across London (as illustrated here by Horse Close Wood and Wimbledon Park Golf Course). If there are new procedures to impose hard artificial differences on or near borough boundaries, these will not attract support from users!

    I suggest that it would be much more sensible to include all sites on the maps. This would obviate the need to establish whether access can be gained or not, which you seem unable to achieve with an acceptable level of accuracy. The alternative of judging access properly, site by site, would be burdensome and somewhat pointless. In my view, mapping a site never implies that it is accessible (ordnance survey maps, for example do not attempt this judgement). The Ecology Handbooks used to have a small print warning on access, just to avoid any doubt on this point. “Readers should be aware that although many of the sites described in this book are freely accessible, many others are private. In some cases they can be visited by permission of the owner. The fact that they are described here does not necessarily mean that they are accessible and readers should be aware of the laws of trespass.”



  2. Julie MacDonald on June 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Thank you for your comments relating to the information displayed on iGiGL.

    The resource aims to provide information on wildlife sites and open spaces which can be visited by the general public, which is why only sites which are freely accessible are displayed. This is particularly the case with rail-side land on which it was decided it was not responsible to encourage people to visit. The decision on whether to include all sites or just accessible sites was debated by the partners involved in iGiGL’s initial development, and this was decided to be the most appropriate starting point. iGiGL continues to be developed, including providing access to full SINC data for GiGL partners.

    We are very sorry for the errors regarding the northern section of Wimbledon Park, Horse Close Wood and The Buddapadipa Temple. We are very grateful for you pointing these out to us, and welcome further feedback using the purpose built iGiGL feedback forms.



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