Goodbye to old friends and hello to the new

As of 12 May 2017, the Neighbourhood Statistics and Data Explorer (beta) web services will close. The Neighbourhood Statistics website has been offering small area data for over a decade and at its launch was probably one of the most innovative government statistical services of its time. The Data Explorer (beta) played a significant role in disseminating the 2011 Censuses and aimed to provide a fuller role in disseminating data from the wider organisation too.

These tools offered greater flexibility for building custom data tables, interacting with data visually and mechanically serving data through application programming interfaces. We are proud of what these platforms have offered users over the years. However, we need to be pragmatic and look for leaner and more sustainable methods of providing these services in the future.

Also, continuing to offer our users several dissemination platforms to access our data is not helpful. Rationalising the number of services we provide will have benefits for our internal support teams but more importantly we recognise that users want us to simplify the journey to our statistical data.

To offset these closures, we are aiming to instead meet the needs of our users via continued development of our website. This will include the integration of data exploration functionality to form one consistent service. An Alpha version of this, showcasing the main functionality is being tested in March and April 2017 and a high fidelity Beta is in the pipeline for later in the year.

But this note is about the old guard, the tools that blazed the trail. The knowledge we gained about what it means to provide an online data service has been invaluable in the development of the new system.

So, thank you old friends.

32 comments on “Goodbye to old friends and hello to the new”

  1. Data, data, data! Why is there such a obsession with data of all sorts? Isn’t it obvious to all that there are too many people to be served in such a small country as the UK? Isn’t it obvious that there is a mega-rich elite who have everything at their disposal?
    In London, and probably to some extent in other cities,it is like living in a permanent building site. No-one just enjoys their town or city any more.
    What has data-gathering contributed to the population’s happiness?
    Forward planning – that one imagines is a reason for data-gathering – is all very well but the here and now is what matters to most mortals.
    The publication of statistics invariably adds to the gloom.
    I

  2. 1. I should like to see some statistics re how the amount of housing development that has taken place in very recent years has contributed to the housing shortage. The feverish activity in the property development/construction industry has resulted in ……?….. homes, but of those homes how many have not been bought for investment, often by foreign interests.

    2. I should like to see statistics on how much land in cities has been ‘stolen’ by large transport infrastructure projects and what input of money from the government (i.e. the people) as been put to such projects.

    3. I should like to see some statistics re how much land is taken by huge estates and what subsidies have gone into those big estates from various sources (i.e. our national government and the EU)

  3. Darren

    I’m surprised NeSS is being retired before at least a like for like replacement is fully functioning. Even more so in the GE run-up when its user base may be visiting/returning. I know the data is not current but surely it still has an (albeit declining) number of customers who will suffer a loss of service? Where will customers be redirected – nomis possibly?

    1. Darren Barnes -

      Hi Andy,
      We will be redirecting our users to NOMIS, ONS and GOV.UK. All the data that NeSS provided is still available to users from these platforms and is more up to date and relevant.

  4. Hadn’t seen this until now. Nice blog Darren, good to recognise how innovative NeSS was for its time. Sad to wave goodbye to it, but also good to see a plan for the future.

  5. Trevor Bennett -

    I am very sorry to see the end of this service. It has been invaluable in producing a scoping report for our town to provide support for a neighbourhood plan. The fact that you could obtain data on a parish and compare it with the district, region and country was valuable in giving a picture of the changes happening in the town and the challenges it faces.

  6. Oh no! so sad, this was SO helpful.
    We used this loads to check if an organisation fitted our funding requirements! Where can I get information about economic deprivation in an area easily?

    1. Sarah – sorry for the delay in replying. The DCLG team produce deprivation data and have an excellent resource with a lot more detail than NeSS provided. See http://dclgapps.communities.gov.uk/imd/idmap.html

  7. Martin Langdon -

    Where have you hidden the medium and small area key statistics on physical environment? Searching for nlud , glud, or their full terms brings up diddly squat.

    Even Google can come up with some results, but we’re pushed onto the ONS head page telling us how fantastic what we had was.

    ONS service significantly declined, probably at vast expense.
    BTW, not all links are honoured.

  8. This seems a completely retrograde step. Admittedly, the ‘old’ system was sometimes difficult and cumbersome but it was detailed, especially geographically. It’s replacement is far less useful and detailed.

  9. I am surprised the changes went ahead. I cant find local population data in any of the new links and so it appears this was a retrograde step.

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying. Drop me an email and maybe I can help point you in the right direction.

  10. Jonathan Roberts -

    Goodbye old friends indeed. This system has been a big help in getting local groups working most effectively to improve their community. The extensive sets of data available for Lower Super Output Areas has helped local projects demonstrate that their desire for change is justified by profiling who lives in their patch. I taught use of these data at Teesside University for a decade and now support south London church groups. I have seen the hopes of Policy Action Team 18 and evidence based practice make a difference.

    Data collected by the state should be shared with its citizens to be rational in their choices and explain why changes need to be made. The closing of a site which I use every week without a replacement is frankly terrifying. It may save cash but it undermines the partnership between the elements of wider civil society. I’d like a good and clear way of looking at the data which can be used by part time activists with a minor capacity in manipulating datasets. Please tell us how this is being done. My anxiety is that this is up there with the proposal to ditch the ten yearly census, which threatened to break a data stream of over 200 years work.

    Please let’s meet out old friends once more even if they turn up in a new set of clothes.

  11. Where on earth can I find neigbourhood statistics now? The new integrated government website may do everything but that’s no good if nothing can be found.

  12. This is a disaster for us geography teachers. Many A level and GCSE lessons trashed.

  13. Dave Anderson -

    I agree – I am a regular user of this service and am extremely disappointed that there is no like for like replacement for this data. Nomis is OK but it doesn’t provide the same detail as the Neigbourhood Statistics data.

  14. The neighbourhood data was fantastic – I used it all the time at work as our funding is aimed at projects in economically deprived areas. I’m really dismayed (no pun intended) by its discontinuation. It will make my job harder and mean money not getting to where it is needed. I’m furious actually.

  15. Amanda Martin -

    I am very unhappy that NeSS has been taken off-line because as a Town Councillor in a large town of 27K residents I used it a lot to understand the characteristics of different parts of the town. Now I cannot even find the identity of the Output Area associated with a particular postcode in order to search for 2011 statistics for that area. Any help would be appreciated.

  16. Helen wallis -

    After going into a meltdown over the loss of the deprived postcodes tool, I eventually found this alternative which others may find useful:
    http://dclgapps.communities.gov.uk/imd/idmap.html

  17. Amanda Martin -

    An example of how useful this facility has been: a pub conversion to housing was in danger of refusal because the planning offers were applying a requirement for two parking spaces per dwelling, but this was reduced to one when I pointed out that vehicle ownership per household in that output area was low.

  18. How disappointing. It’s bad practice to retire a service without launching its replacement first. It provided a very useful service. The ONS shouldn’t remove data sharing from the public domain, it does not serve the purpose of the ONS well. Please provide an equally effective lookup service. Don’t force people to search through a massive repository of data that they have to download and then search through. This tool filled a purpose and now there’s nothing to replace it.

  19. This is disgraceful. All that rich data and information right down to lower layer super output level has been trashed. All that work gone! What a waste of a fantastic resource.

  20. Let me be among those few to notice this passing! Neighbourhood Statistics was a good, reliable, easy to use source. Hope we can all adapt to NOMIS instead.

  21. Catherine Taylor -

    This is no new friend of mine! Where is the local data? It seems impossible to undertake neighbourhood profiling any more. I find it incredibly bad practice that OS did not forewarn subscribers of their intention to close the site. How can neighbourhood groups evidence local plans and gather evidence to support bids? Very disappointing.

    1. Hi Catherine. Sorry for the delay in responding. A banner advising site users of our intentions to close had been place on every page from June 2016 to its final closure. We also included information in the Latest News section.

      If you need help finding difference sources drop me an email and I can try to facilitate.

  22. Jonathan Melson -

    I am looking for a portal that I can refer outreach groups to so that they can determine headline issues for their neighbourhoods.

    Unfortunately, as Darren stated, there is no replacement. Very dissapointing

    1. Hi Jonathan – please get in touch if you need help identifying the sources of data you need.

  23. Well that was well publicised I don’t think – when I turn to a tried and trusted data source for local area stats for an area that is new to me, all I find is the usual GOV.UK drivel. I despair

    1. Hi Jane. The closure had been promoted on the NeSS website since June 2016. A banner had been placed on every page of the site and latest news had been posted with more information too.

      Sorry you had missed these.

  24. Up and down the country groups are working to produce Neighbourhood Plans. The very local data on the Neighbourhood Statistics website was invaluable for Neighbourhood Planners. The new Local Statistics Site gives meaningful help on how to use it.

  25. Steve Marshall -

    June, Andy,
    Good feedback, have you got any response yet ?
    The new platform does allow you to data-drill down though ?

    1. Hi Steve – I don’t see a June or an Andy in the list of comments so am not sure what response they are expecting.

      The new functionality we are developing the ONS website will allow users to drill down into datasets. Please see the blogs relating to the Alpha project which offers a link to an early prototype.

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