WEST NORTHAMPTONSHIRE JPU

The West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit is tasked with implementing and publishing planning policy for the Joint Strategic Planning Committee (JSPC) whose remit covers 3 Local Authorities: Daventry District, Northampton Borough and South Northamptonshire. Given the unique administrative and geographic area covered by the JPU it was important that a mapping solution could be maintained in-house that allowed staff to collate, structure and publish GIS data from 3 Councils without compromising consistency and accuracy at any scale of map view. WPP member Blue Fox Technology was contracted to provide its OpusMap system to fulfil the JPU’s ongoing mapping and map publishing requirements.

Recent changes in planning legislation coupled with rulings and guidelines from the Planning Inspectorate and Government means that increasingly Local Authority planners are having to consult, cooperate and collaborate more widely when determining planning policy. When working relationships are formalised as at West Northamptonshire JPU a number of technical issues have to be addressed to ensure the practicalities of joint-working can be undertaken with the minimum of fuss.

This is where the web and the use of web technologies can play a vital role in helping to convert decisions taken collaboratively at a strategic level into visible and accessible documentation and reporting in the public domain. Having licensed OpusMap for a minimum of 3 years the JPU were able to build a spatial component into the ‘virtual office’ it had already established via its public website which includes an integrated document management and consultation system. Thanks to its Open Source structure and access via a standard web browser the JPU was able to seamlessly integrate OpusMap into its web architecture. As Northamptonshire County Council is also a member of the JSPC the JPU was able to use its WMS map service for feeding in Ordnance Survey base mapping into OpusMap, thus saving time and resources.

OpusMap‘s extensive suite of cartographic design and editing tools allowed JPU staff to upload data from each Council’s GIS and use it to design, create and publish a series of seamless maps of the combined West Northamptonshire administrative area. As there are no limits or constraints to how many maps are produced in OpusMap the JPU was also able to publish each Council’s current Local Plan map, despite their being at different stages of development and each using different policy notation. A Central Area Action Plan of Northampton Town Centre has also been published thus demonstrating that any area within West Northamptonshire can be mapped irrespective of administrative boundaries.

OpusMap‘s unique linking system between maps and documents also meant that the JPU could create custom links to documents in its iNovem consultation system and vice versa, giving the public full and focused access to the policies and issues represented in spatial and text form for each Plan.

Key project features

  • OpusMap‘s simple licence allows JPU to publish maps on behalf of the JPU and each individual Council
  • despite limited staff and resources the JPU can remain self-sufficient thanks to OpusMap’s simple user interface
  • client is able to build 2-way links between OpusMap and iNovem’s consultation system
  • public is able to search, view and interact with any map, map layer or individual site anywhere in West Northamptonshire via one central map portal