Alternative Approaches to Data Sharing

London Borough of Camden – Encouraging developers to share ecological data

As part of the planning process, local authorities ask developers for ecological assessments on plots of land they want to develop. The ecological assessments are archived in the planning system and the information they contain is largely inaccessible. For the data to have any value, work is needed to collate, analyse and present it in a usable form.

In the London Borough of Camden, the then Nature Conservation Manager Richard Harris and his team, pushed the boundaries by engaging directly with developers. They bring the developer into the picture early on – even making them aware of the need to agree to release any surveyed ecological data to GiGL at the pre-planning stage.

From the outset, negotiation takes place with the consultant about data ownership and agreement is reached on when which records will be released into the public domain. It is assumed that agreement has been reached on the ownership of the data between the consultant and the individual/organisation which paid for the collection of data and creation of records. Through this process the de-facto owner is the developer.

Furthermore, within Camden’s Local Development Framework draft Supplementary Planning Guidance for Sustainability, the council requires that the results of site surveys must be made available to GiGL with the submission of a planning application. See Camden’s website for further details.

“The bottom line,” says Richard, “is that, in Camden at least, there are no longer any excuses for consultants not to share data with the GiGL. It helps them avoid the sticky issue around data ownership as the developer is asked to agree early on to the request by us (the Local Authority). It becomes an automatic part of the contract between the developer and the consultant to release the data.”

The cost of re-formatting the data forms part of Camden’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) with  GiGL.

This can prove costly depending on how many applications contain survey data as the work is completed by GiGL staff and deducted from the borough’s SLA.

In Camden, there has been talk of earmarking a specific percentage of Section 106 money towards nature conservation. Richard Harris believes it is possible these extra funds could help pay for an extended service level agreement to cover, among other things, the costs of data re-formatting.