Reflections and Star Gazing

By barry.foster

Posted in Guest Contributors on October 17th 2011 14:58

As many know I have left Plymouth City Council after 22 years of creating and maintaining what we now refer to as the National Land & Property Gazetteer (NLPG).

I suspect those who leave a place of employment will have done what I did recently and empty your desk drawers to find long lost data CD’s that you swore someone had borrowed and not returned, a favourite pen which had been lost or even some notes you made for that, to you, new software package when you first started.

In my clear out along with the above I came across a set of bulletins that I created in 1989 to explain to all the departments of the authority what our Corporate Land & Property Database was to be and how they were to use it and contribute to its development. Yes the year of the bulletins being written is correct – 1989. Plymouth along with a number of other authorities were working on a central address database for local authorities at least a decade before the NLPG was created. A lot of hours were spent resolving issues in meetings with Tony Black, Dorothy Pugh and others and it is pleasing to look back and see that the general principles that were constructed all those years ago have stood the test of time and are enshrined in the NLPG of today.

That’s reflection – so what of the future?

It could be argued that in the present financial climate there won’t be the luxury of having so much time to develop the product we now have much beyond its present structure. It has been seen in the last 2 years or so that changes are required to happen quicker than previously. Does this compromise accuracy and quality? Without great care I think it can.

Are more and more fields of data within the NLPG a good thing? Or is this developing the NLPG away from what it was set up to be – a definitive central comprehensive address resource that data is attached to.

Creating the National Address Database (NAG) is the right development. There needed to be just one depository for all “addresses” from which the various sectors public and private can extract the datasets they require. My concern is that the local authorities are tasked with the maintenance of the addresses/streets in NAG and all the changes that other partners/customers require. In the present financial climate this pace of updating may be unsustainable with the staff resources that are available without significant central support, not just in words. It’s the old story everyone can agree that there are benefits to providing adequate staffing to maintain the NLPG but senior management in local authorities need to see the actual savings which is very often difficult to produce.

I will close on a note of caution and optimism

If the quality and accuracy of the NAG is compromised in an attempt to push through updates that are not universally required then the product may fail.

However I do have total belief that the NAG/NLPG is a product worth fighting for so to all the custodians “keep fighting”.

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