Baildon Planning Application Map

TL;DR

I have resurrected and tweaked the Baildon planning application map at:-

baildon.org.uk/maps/planning

The Long Version

I developed an interest in using computers many years ago (mid to late 1970s)  when I started writing programs to make my work as a Production Engineer easier. I saw several opportunities as a councillor to do the same. Baildon Parish Council volunteered to be the first, along with Keighley, to trial a paperless way of reviewing planning applications with Bradford Council.

A sample of the paperwork for plans

Up until then a paper copy of all Baildon related planning applications was sent to the chair of the planning review committee. Once we agreed to the trial the paper copies stopped, so we had to make the trial work.

I was of the opinion that council meetings should not rely on an internet connection during the meeting. Printing was out of the question – it would be going against the intention of the paperless idea and move the printing work and costs to a less efficient place – you can see a sample of what we had been receiving in the photo. This meant that all documents and drawings related to all planning applications to be decided on during the meeting had to be downloaded to be available during the meeting. Doing this manually was extremely tedious so I put my “make my job easier” hat on.

It should have been possible to query the planning system used by Bradford to get the required information in an unambiguous way but they did not invest in the required XML package. Bradford co-operated but were not as helpful as I had hoped. The individuals did everything they could – they let me know when their software was being upgraded and let me have access to their test systems so that I could make the necessary tweaks to my system so that it would still work post upgrade.

Screenshot of the planning review meeting webpage

I finished up writing a system that read through the planning application web pages and extracted the required information from them automatically. It then created a complete planning review meeting web page allowing a browser plugin to download all the required documents and drawings. The web page then had clickable links to all the downloaded files. A system that saved hours of work every month.

I investigated the planning systems used by many central planning authorities and found that quite a few were using the same software as Bradford. I contacted a few local councils and as a result Haxby Town Council started using it, and still are, to extract and manage their meeting reviews from the York City Council iDox system. Soon after I stopped being a member of the planning review committee this system stopped being used by Baildon.

Baildon may have stopped using it but it did tie in nicely with a mapping system I had worked on. It meant that I could use the same code so that with just the planning application case number and knowing the location of the property it was possible to create a map, with info windows, of Baildon planning applications.

Ingress screenshot from my phone

Unfortunately I lost my contacts at Bradford and stopped receiving notifications of planning applications. The automated part of the map system died. The growth of social media, the suggestion that the Town Council were going to be providing more general information on their website and via social media, the fact that I had a job taking up a fair amount of my energy, an interest in photography and a passion for the augmented reality game Ingress meant that there was little if anything left for working on the town website let alone a planning application map within it so it stayed dead for a few years.

A screenshot of the plan map

Over the last few months a few grey cells had been ticking away and the last couple of days I have sat down and updated and tweaked the planning map. It can still display the old applications but I have now added newer ones from the back end of last year to date. The Bradford system has improved over the last few years and means that relatively easily I can keep track of new/updated/granted/refused Baildon related planning applications and plot them on the map.

You can see the planning map on baildon.org.uk here. How much of Baildon you see will depend on the size of the screen you are using but it should be easy to zoom in/out and move around the map.