Curating local data for local people. In Bath.

Understanding Our Local Geographies

What is local data? For Bath: Hacked, local data means data about or relating to Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES).

But how is the B&NES region defined?

In this post I wanted to explore that question, paying particular reference to geography, or rather geographies, as there are several.

Area Classifications

The 2011 UK census can help us understand a little more about the local community. The Office of National Statistics have created “pen portraits” that describe areas around the UK. I’ve put them onto a map to make them easier to explore.

How does the map fit with your understanding of Bath & North East Somerset?

Minecraft Map of Bath

The Ordnance Survey have published a Minecraft map of Great Britain. Its recently been updated to include more detail. Its a fantastic idea and has, I think, some potential use as an educational tool.

However the full map is something like 20GB, eating up a fair bit of disk space and memory and making it difficult to use it on older hardware. So I wondered whether there was a way to cut out a limited section of the map focusing on a smaller area. Like Bath for example.

Here’s how I did it.

Exploring a Bath Chronicle House Price Story

The cover of the Bath Chronicle caught my eye yesterday. The headline article was “House prices now 8 times average pay” you can read a summary of the article on their site. The article describes that the TUC are reporting that the ratio of house price to salary in Bath & North East Somerset has increased 89% between 1997-2013

I wondered where the data for this analysis came from and whether it would be possible to repeat it using open data. So I picked up a copy of the Chronicle, opened my web browser and explored further.

Bath Hacked

It’s beeen over two years since I posted to this blog. At the time I had good intentions that I was going to post regularly and try my best to start an open data community here in Bath. Unfortunately, as always happens real life intervened. A few months after this happened I ended up changing jobs and went freelance. The result was that I had no time for side projects as I was taking on as much work as possible to get the business started.

I’ve never completely given up on the idea behind DataSulis though. While I’ve not had much time to do any visible work I’ve continued to research open datasets that might be useful to the local community. My work with the Open Data Institute and others has also given me some useful experience.

I was about to kick-start this project again when I discovered Bath: Hacked. It turns out that I’m not the only person passionate about open data in Bath and they’ve been extremely busy!

The @BathHacked team have been working with B&NES to open up some datasets. After a succcessful hack day earlier this year they’ve now launched a beta data store based on Socrata.

As a result of this I’ve been reworking the code in the DataSulis github account to add support for posting the data to Socrata. I’ve also been spending time exploring the Socrata platform. I volunteered to help out with BathHacked and have agreed to help manage the data store, to help people get the most out of it and ensure that the datasets are well-published.

There’s some interesting datasets in the store already, including some continuously updated air quality data taken from sensors around the city. B&NES are running an air quality hack day in a few weeks to encourage developers to use the data to build some interesting applications.

While I’ll be blogging on the Bath Hacked website, contributing to the BathHacked github project, etc. I’ve decided to revive this project. My plan is to use this site to write about my own personal perspective on open data in Bath, publish investigations of useful datasets, and share updates on my own hacking with local open data.

How You Can Help. Yes, You!

After I posted a link to this project on Twitter last night, there was some really encouraging feedback from the local community. Looks like there’s some interest in a Bath based hackday and cider. Mainly cider in fact, but that’s all good :)

One question I got asked is: how do we move this forward? I thought I’d post some ideas about next steps, as well as some suggestions for how people can get involved.

House Price Data From the Land Registry

Like the Ordnance Survey, the Land Registry have recently started to publish some Open Data. That data includes statistics on transactions made against the Land Registry database as well as “price paid” data.

As the Land Registry website explains, this data relates to:

residential property sales in England and Wales that are lodged with us for registration. The data includes:

  • the full address of the property (Primary addressable object name (PAON), Secondary addressable object name (SAON), street, postcode, locality (if available), town, district, county)
  • the price paid for the property
  • the date of transfer
  • the property type (Detached, Semi, Terraced, Flat/Maisonette)
  • whether the property is new build or not
  • whether the property is freehold or leasehold.

We can filter their data to grab just the Bath prices.

The NHS in Bath

The NHS Organisation Data Service has a responsibility to help various parts of the NHS, and affiliated organisations, exchange information as efficiently as possible. Part of that activity involves maintaining a database of organisations relevant to the NHS. That includes everything from NHS Primary Care Trusts through to individual Pharmacies.

Their data is published under the Open Government License so can be freely reused. Lets take a look at what it contains and how we can grab a local extract.

Bath Postcodes

If we’re going to be working with local data then it makes sense to have a list of local postcodes. There’s all kinds of data that can be usefully linked or combined based on postcode information. For example you could aggregate statistics on crime rates or house prices. Happily the Ordnance Survey now publish some useful Open Data about UK postcodes.

So lets look at how we can work with their data to query it and extract it for local use.