Back at the Civic Info forum in November Richard Pope presented his initial work on scraping planning application data from local council websites. This was a classic case where the original providers of the data did not make it available in an open form that was easy to use and reuse (it was often just difficult to even find).
At the time, Richard had only got round to writing a web scraper for a couple of the council’s around where he lived and only redistributed the information in the form of email alerts. However, encouraged by the feedback at the forum a dedicated site was launched in December: http://www.planningalerts.com/. Aided by a growing team of volunteers the project now has more than 1000 subscribers and covers more than 100 local councils.
Even better from an open data point of view is that, while the initial service simply focused on allowing people to sign up for email alerts, the project now makes all of its data openly available both via
a web api and as a straight data dump.
This is a wonderful example of creating a new repository of open data by gathering diverse sources together, cleaning them up (standards-based: georss) and then making it all available in an open, accessible and reusable manner. So a big well-done to Richard and all the other contributors to the project.