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Forestry Commission launches GIS data download service

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The Forestry Commission has formally launched its DataDownload service, which enables users of geographic information systems (GIS) to download spatial datasets directly from its website.

Users previously had to ask Commission staff to manually prepare and download datasets for them.

Sixty-two datasets are now available, many of which had not previously been publicly available.

A total of 1800 datasets were directly downloaded by users during a pilot project between June and mid-October, saving the equivalent of 900 hours of Forestry Commission staff time.

Peter Weston, Head of Inventory, Forecasting and Operational Support (IFOS) for the Commission, said,

“We’re delighted to be able to offer this service to our customers, which has several benefits for them, us and the taxpayer. It:

  • provides users with unlimited and faster access to our GIS data without any need for our staff to get involved;
  • assisted the Commission towards compliance with the European Union’s INSPIRE directive on data sharing;
  • uses standardised data and metadata ‘products’ to offer greater usability and consistency;
  • improves the currency of the data, with all the datasets being updated to agreed timetables;
  • improves our knowledge of the use being made of the data, and helps us to increase its use;
  • features seamless handling of data licensing as part of the download process;
  • facilitates and reduces the number of Freedom of Information requests; and
  • opens the possibility of our being able to recover costs by charging for more bespoke and complex data requests.”

The service is available from, and further information is available from Olly Stephenson and Ian Macleod in the IFOS team:


A spatial GIS dataset is typically a block of information about, for example, an area of land, a line on the ground, or a point on the ground. It can include information such as: soil types and characteristics; slope and topography; current land use; regulations such as planning rules applying to the land; designations over the land such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs); forest crop; agricultural or environmental grants and subsidies available or in use on the land; and transport networks. It has a wide range of uses and applications in forestry and other land uses. For example, GIS software can analyse different pieces of information in a dataset to:

  • help forest planners to decide which tree species are best suited to the land;
  • model, or predict, risk areas for the spread of tree diseases on to or from the land or a point on a map; or
  • help engineers to plan routes for hauling timber out of forests.

Media contact: Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500