There has been a great deal of technical development and system changes to the NBN Gateway over the past few years. Whilst the overall appearance and general functionality of the Gateway website has not had a major makeover in nearly five years, we have been working under the bonnet to ensure that we are able to satisfy the requirements of the full range of users.
- We’ve switched to a three-tier architecture to improve response times and stability,
- We've moved the servers from Monks Wood to Wallingford
- We've relocated the development team to Lancaster.
During this time, we have kept the infrastructure up and running and continued to support the development of applications using our web services.
The range of applications using our web services has historically included generic reconnaissance tools within the UK conservation agencies, and dynamic websites for some recording schemes and local record centres. Over the past couple of years, however, there has been a concerted effort to support more specialist or dedicated tools, which provide data and interpreted information products to answer specific questions or support discrete activities.
Making available evidence during the planning process provides an important opportunity to influence decision making for better biodiversity outcomes.
The NBN started working on planning screening issues with Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) in 2005. Back then, we helped to develop exploratory interfaces for desktop GIS applications to access data from the Gateway. The aim was to provide planning professionals with species data through the NBN Gateway, which had been supplied and was managed by GIGL.
In 2008 Natural England began a project with GiGL to build on that work, with the development of a web-based planning screening tool. The pilot tool, incorporates principles from the Biodiversity Toolkit work, and has been developed in consultation with London Borough planning professionals. It uses Gateway web services and data from GiGL’s servers to deliver information to help assess the biodiversity impact of planning applications. GiGL are now working with Natural England to roll out an operational system for (all?) London boroughs.
NBN Trust staff have been working in parallel, to promote the idea of a dedicated planning screening tool in other parts of the UK, and engaging with Planning Portal staff to begin to identify what options are available for rolling out planning screening functionality in association with it.