INSPIRE requires public bodies to publish spatial data they hold relating to 34 environmental themes. The themes include things that describe the environment like habitats; things that impact on the environment such as transport networks; and things that allow us to manage and understand the environment such as management areas and statistical units.
The themes are defined in annexes to the Directive as shown below. Each Annex has a series of deadlines by which data must be published and transformed in line with standard specifications.
Natural risk zones
Habitats & biotopes
Human health & safety
Population dist. & demography
Utility & govt. services
Geographical grid systems
Coordinate reference systems
Environmental monitoring facilities
Area management restriction / regulation zones & reporting units
Production & industrial facilities
Agri & Aquaculture facilities
Datasets for the 13 themes in Annex I and II are already published and can be viewed here. So now we are focusing on the 21 themes in Annex III. The scope of the Annex III themes is very broad which means that the Directive will impact on a lot of public bodies, including every local authority.
Defra is responsible for monitoring and coordinating to ensure the UK meets the requirements of INSPIRE. To do this for all the INSPIRE datasets would be impossible, especially as we are a small team, so we are taking a risk based approach along the following lines.
We are currently working to identify a small number of 'priority datasets' for each theme in Annex III which we will monitor through to publication. We will be working closely with the organisations who hold the datasets.
But what is a priority dataset? Well there aren't any hard and fast rules but things to consider include:
Are there datasets directly referenced in an INSPIRE data specification?
For example the Protected Sites specification directly references data for NATURA 2000 sites.
Is there a high user demand?
This is quite hard to measure, but we do have some sources of intelligence, primarily from our discussions with stakeholders. Other resources like the ODUG Data Request service also help.
Forms, or has potential to form, a core reference geography
Core reference geographies will be key to delivering INSPIRE data that is easy for the end user to consume and efficient to publish. For example for the Addresses Theme in Annex I, we quickly realised that the most efficient way of delivering the theme would be to publish the National Address Gazetteer (through AddressBase) and their Scottish and Northern Ireland equivalents. This removed the need for local authorities to publish the data individually, saving them time and money.
Some Annex III datasets are already published. We are considering on a case by case basis if these could be the priority datasets so reducing the need to monitor the relevant themes.
These are a bit like the core reference geographies. If data is already aggregated in a service why require the data to be republished? We are working with a number of aggregators to publish the central holding, again reducing burdens on individual organisations. More on this in a future blog.
We are currently undertaking a lot of research to produce an initial list of priority datasets against which we will monitor progress.
The list will change over time as our knowledge grows and priorities change.
We need your help
If you have any thoughts on what should be on the list, or indeed on the approach, please share them below or drop me a line via the Helpdesk.
Datasets not on our priority list will still need to be published. The Defra INSPIRE team will still be helping by providing guidance, support, regular communications and events. We will also share as much as we can, as soon as we can, about the approaches we are taking for each theme, particularly where this might negate the need for organisations to do anything!
A word on Local Government
The Local Government Association have been working with us to identify what datasets local authorities hold that are within scope of INSPIRE and we have done a further review to prioritise these datasets. We will be sharing more information on this work soon, but in the meantime local authorities should continue to review their own data and produce metadata for their spatial datasets.