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A Ruby gem to get planning applications data from UK council websites.
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README.md

UK Planning Scraper

PRE-ALPHA: Only works with Idox and Northgate sites and spews a lot of stuff to STDOUT. Not for production use.

This gem scrapes planning applications data from UK local planning authority websites, eg Westminster City Council. Data is returned as an array of hashes, one hash for each planning application.

This scraper gem doesn't use a database. Storing the output is up to you. It's just a convenient way to get the data.

Currently this only works for Idox and Northgate sites. The ultimate aim is to provide a consistent interface in a single gem for all variants of all planning systems: Idox Public Access, Northgate Planning Explorer, OcellaWeb, Agile Planning and all the one-off systems.

This project is not affiliated with any organisation.

Installation

Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'uk_planning_scraper'

And then execute:

$ bundle install

Or install it directly:

$ gem install uk_planning_scraper

Usage

First, require your stuff

require 'uk_planning_scraper'
require 'pp'

Scrape from a council

Applications in Westminster decided in the last seven days:

pp UKPlanningScraper::Authority.named('Westminster').decided_days(7).scrape

Scrape from a bunch of councils

Scrape the last week's planning decisions across the whole of London (actually 23 of the 35 authorities right now):

authorities = UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tagged('london')

authorities.each do |authority|
  applications = authority.decided_days(7).scrape
  pp applications
  # You'll probably want to save `applications` to your database here
end

Satisfy your niche interests

Launderette applications validated in the last seven days in Scotland:

authorities = UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tagged('scotland')

authorities.each do |authority|
  applications = authority.validated_days(7).keywords('launderette').scrape
  pp applications # You'll probably want to save `apps` to your database here
end

### More scrape parameter methods

Chain as many scrape parameter methods on a UKPlanningScraper::Authority object as you like, making sure that scrape comes last.

received_from(Date.parse("1 Jan 2016"))
received_to(Date.parse("31 Dec 2016"))

# Received in the last n days (including today)
# Use instead of received_to, received_from
received_days(7) 

validated_to(Date.today)
validated_from(Date.today - 30)
validated_days(7) # instead of validated_to, validated_from

decided_to(Date.today)
decided_from(Date.today - 30)
decided_days(7) # instead of decided_to, decided_from

# Check that the systems you're scraping return the
# results you expect for multiple keywords (AND or OR?)
keywords("hip gable") 

applicant_name("Mr and Mrs Smith") # Currently Idox only
application_type("Householder") # Currently Idox only
development_type("") # Currently Idox only

scrape # runs the scraper

Save to a SQLite database

This gem has no interest whatsoever in persistence. What you do with the data it outputs is up to you: relational databases, document stores, VHS and clay tablets are all blissfully none of its business. But using the ScraperWiki gem is a really easy way to store your data:

require 'scraperwiki' # Must be installed, of course
ScraperWiki.save_sqlite([:authority_name, :council_reference], applications)

That applications param can be a hash or an array of hashes, which is what gets returned by our Authority.scrape.

Find authorities by tag

Tags are always lowercase and one word.

london_auths = UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tagged('london')

We've got tags for areas:

  • london
  • innerlondon
  • outerlondon
  • northlondon
  • southlondon
  • greatermanchester
  • surrey
  • wales

We also automatically add tags for software systems:

  • idox
  • northgate
  • ocellaweb
  • agileplanning
  • unknownsystem -- for when we can't identify the system

and whatever you'd like to add that would be useful to others.

WTF is up with London?

London has got 32 London Boroughs, tagged londonboroughs. These are the councils under the authority of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority.

It has 33 councils: the London Boroughs plus the City of London (named City of London). We don't currently have a tag for this, but if you want to add londoncouncils please go ahead.

And it's got 35 local planning authorities: the 33 councils plus the two londondevelopmentcorporations, named London Legacy Development Corporation and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation. The tag london covers all (and only) the 35 local planning authorities in London.

UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tagged('londonboroughs').size
 # => 32
 
UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tagged('londondevelopmentcorporations').size
 # => 2

UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tagged('london').size
 # => 35

More fun with Authority tags

UKPlanningScraper::Authority.named('Merton').tags
 # => ["england", "london", "londonboroughs", "northgate", "outerlondon", "southlondon"]

UKPlanningScraper::Authority.not_tagged('london')
 # => [...]

UKPlanningScraper::Authority.named('Islington').tagged?('southlondon')
 # => false

List all authorities

UKPlanningScraper::Authority.all.each { |a| puts a.name }

List all tags

pp UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tags

Add your favourite local planning authorities

The list of authorities is in a CSV file in /lib/uk_planning_scraper:

https://github.com/adrianshort/uk_planning_scraper/blob/master/lib/uk_planning_scraper/authorities.csv

The easiest way to add to or edit this list is to edit within GitHub (use the pencil icon) and create a new pull request for your changes. If accepted, your changes will be available to everyone with the next version of the gem.

The file format is one line per authority, with comma-separated:

  • Name (omit "the", "council", "borough of", "city of", etc. and write "and" not "&", except for City of London which is a special case)
  • URL of the search form (use the advanced search URL if there is one)
  • Tags (use as many comma-separated tags as is reasonable, lowercase and all one word.)

There's no need to manually add tags to the authorities.csv file for the software systems like idox, northgate etc as these are added automatically.

Please check the tag list before you change anything:

pp UKPlanningScraper::Authority.tags

Development

After checking out the repo, run bin/setup to install dependencies. You can also run bin/console for an interactive prompt that will allow you to experiment.

To install this gem onto your local machine, run bundle exec rake install. To release a new version, update the version number in version.rb, and then run bundle exec rake release, which will create a git tag for the version, push git commits and tags, and push the .gem file to rubygems.org.

Contributing

Bug reports and pull requests are welcome on GitHub at https://github.com/adrianshort/uk_planning_scraper.

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