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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Wider horizons

Mandy Rudd, GiGL Director, introduces us to the myriad opportunities afforded by the development of GiGL’s open space data holdings – its collection and use.

Managing open space data is a relatively new venture for GiGL, and one which presents a whole new set of challenges and opportunities. Developing our open space related data and services is one of our key objectives for this financial year.

Accordingly, we are starting to look at the way in which GiGL manages existing open space data, at sources of new data and, crucially, at what information end users may require. GiGL’s role in managing open space data began in 2004 as a result of a London-wide consultation, led by the London Parks and Green Spaces Forum.

The consultation identified existing sources of open space data, and made recommendations for future data generation and management. At the same time, the Greater London Authority modified its habitat surveys to include comprehensive PPG17-related features (the planning policy guidance for sport and recreation), and as a result of the consultation, GiGL was asked to act as custodian of the resulting data – our existing systems and expertise in managing data making us a natural choice.

Since 2004, the GLA has surveyed nine London boroughs as part of their open space and habitat survey program, and the resulting data is now managed here at GiGL. Having customised our data management systems we have also been able to extract limited but standardised open space data from habitat surveys that predate the 2004 change in methodology, giving at least partial coverage for thirty London boroughs.

The data are currently managed on Recorder and GIS and can be made available in many formats, from Excel spreadsheets to attributed GIS layers of site boundaries.The information included in the reports is flexible too, ranging from distribution maps of single facilities, such as basketball hoops and BMX tracks, through to information about an individual site’s access, entry points and level of use.

A new GiGL product currently under discussion is the creation of a regional open space dataset, over and above the datasets collected by the GLA’s ten-year rolling survey programme.This would collate the most recent data for each borough in a standardised format and generating a London-wide overview of parks facilities and land use which would then be kept up to date.To achieve this, we will need to work with the range of regional and sub-regional organisations that generate new open space data or need access to existing data to inform their work, including both the GLA and the London boroughs.The potential uses of this dataset are vast.

London boroughs are obliged to produce ‘open space strategies’ and to report annually on their open spaces in their local development frameworks, and Londonwide initiatives such as the ‘Your London’ website the ‘official online guide to London’s public and community services’, which enables end users to search for information on London’s parks and open spaces, are just two of the possible end users for this dataset.A GiGL-managed open space dataset could provide annual regional statistics, including those on the loss and gain of facilities. It would also enable figures to be generated for boroughs’ annual monitoring reports, drawing comparisons between the borough and the London region.There are also a broad range of potential users of the open space datasets with whom we have yet to engage, providing an exciting opportunity to further expand the GiGL partnership.

The open space data that we currently hold isn’t just useful for open space practitioners. Information on open space typologies can also inform a range of biodiversity-related projects. The London Biodiversity Partnership has action plans that relate to parks, churchyards and cemeteries, while many organisations are interested in the distribution and importance of brownfield sites to London’s wildlife, as illustrated by Buglife’s ‘All of a Buzz’ project discussed in our wastelands article.

In this issue of the GiGLer, we explore these ideas further. Contributions from the Greater London Authority and the London Parks and Green Spaces Forum look at the current status of boroughs’ open space strategies, and at the role that GiGL could play in supporting them, while we assess the potential value of open space data to the conservation of some of London’s BAP priority habitats. We also have information about our new website and other items of recent news, and are pleased to have a contribution from Alexia Wellbelove, chair of the London Bat Group, who provides a summary of GiGL and the London Bat Group’s shared history.

If you would like to be involved with GiGL’s work on developing the open space data holdings and services please do contact us.

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