Archive for May, 2011
Today I’ve been working my way through the supporting documents for the new public toilets for Oxford Street. (My previous blog post about them is here and the planning documents are here, at the time of writing.)
My response to the planning proposal is here (pdf). I made 4 points, about Gender Ratios, Signs, ‘Changing Places’ and Benches.
It wasn’t easy to comment on a planning application. Here’s why…
1 – I had to know about it.
- As part of my research I met a man at Westminster Council in 2009 who told me they were hoping to build a public toilet pavillion on this site (between John Lewis and House of Fraser).
- In 2010 I heard that there was something in a London paper about the department stores objecting because it would draw people away from their stores!
- Finally, the developers of the toilets contacted my Supervisor as they were looking for some researchers to count nearby toilets (tempting, but not what we do).
So I kept an eye out.
I never said where I got to with Ordnance Survey.
There’s a good reason. I don’t really know.
In March I wrote a blog post about how Ordnance Survey’s licensing rules were inhibiting my plan for local councils to publish data on where their public toilets are. You can read it here.
*Most* councils (i.e. all but one of my acquaintance) said that they weren’t allowed to publish the locations of their public toilets by giving Latitude/Longitude co-ordinates, because this information came from their internal mapping systems (‘GIS’) which Ordnance Survey provided, and own.
Also, the toilet data itself is part of the ‘Points of Interest’ dataset, provided to Ordnance Survey by an external company called Point X.
Though Point X is jointly owned by Ordnance Survey.
and most of Point X’s data is provided by Ordnance Survey.
So. Any council that provides toilet data would have to do so by going the extra mile. This would mean replotting data on Google Maps or similar, or going out and finding the location data of public toilets themselves using a GPS. Basically, do something less convenient than they would like to. Which in the under-funded world of local government feels like a bit of a killer.
But like I said, one council did think that OS would allow it. So I concluded that “the only way that I can see to solve this is to get confirmation one way or the other from Ordnance Survey themselves.”
With help from the very helpful Paul Beauchamp on Twitter (who’s Twitter bio lists him as a member of the Award-Winning PR and Comms team at Ordnance Survey, and I can see why!), I got a couple of answers.
more London-centric blogging, sorry…
The Greater London Authority have been reinvestigating the state of London’s loos.
Before they write their report they would like to hear your thoughts on Toilet Data.
The GLA will be asking the London borough councils, nicely, to provide clear, complete, consistent information on their public toilet facilities, and in a common format, so that it can be re-used by absolutely anyone to make London-wide maps and toilet-finding applications and websites.
This would be a big improvement compared to now where the info is fractured across 33 council websites.
When it exists.
Which it frequently doesn’t.
Consequently they have been working on what this common format should be. They need to know what data the councils should include (e.g. location, opening times, type of facilities, access restrictions…) and how the data should be formatted.