Present Output Area Classification data on interactive maps InstantAtlas_FreeTrial

Combining customer insight and Output Area Classification data to create visualisations of local information and analysis

The Research Group at Cambridgeshire County Council has created a number of interactive atlases that combine local data with the social classification tool Output Area Classification (OAC). These have added insight into local areas across the county and provided a fresh approach for interrogating data that is held on resident populations. The interactive maps use various datasets and have been combined with OAC to offer insight into local communities. Gurjeet Rajania, Senior Research Officer: Consultation and Customer Knowledge and Hendrik Grothuis LIP Project Manager, have now just released their most comprehensive atlas to date; the Ward Profile Atlas. This includes a wide range of socio-economic and demographic indicators to develop a fuller picture of issues affecting local areas in Cambridgeshire.

Starting Point

We spoke to Gurjeet and Hendrik about their use of interactive maps and customer insight data. Gurjeet explains their starting point was to use data from the 2008 Place Survey and display with OAC. The Place Survey was designed to give a snapshot of residents’ opinions of their local areas and was a requirement of every Local Authority. The survey included a series of national indicators covering satisfaction with local amenities and services, community cohesion and environmental concerns.

Gurjeet and Hendrik wanted to display the data with a high level of granularity at ward level across the county for each of the national indicators. They also wanted to overlay the map with OAC. Hendrik has been producing interactive maps using InstantAtlas for the county council for some time and Gurjeet worked with InstantAtlas in the past to display indices of deprivation at another Local Authority. They both recognised that it would be a useful data presentation tool. Hendrik worked on developing the InstantAtlas template while Gurjeet made sure the data was collected and available in the right format.

ward profiles atlas

Meeting the need

There has been a great deal of interest from the council’s community engagement team and also from its transport services and community safety teams. This is because it allows them to see a detailed picture of what residents in the area think about local services and it therefore helps them assess gaps in provision. Gurjeet and Hendrik were pleased by the positive response and quickly set about producing another OAC atlas. What followed were the Living Costs and Food Survey atlas and the full OAC atlas.

living costs and food survey

The combined Place Survey and OAC atlases have been commended by the council’s chief executive, Mark Lloyd. On his blog, he said: “As we look to target our services, we need a really deep understanding of the County so we can answer the ‘who, what, where and when’ questions. I encourage colleagues to make maximum use of the intelligence about the County held by the Research Group.”

Why OAC?

In each of these the use of OAC has been a common theme that has linked all atlases. OAC has been used because it is freely available, accredited by the Office for National Statistics, and is an open source allowing users to understand the data and freely share it. There are three levels to OAC this includes seven supergroups, 21 groups and 52 subgroups. Each output area in the country is assigned a specific classification. These classifications are entirely created with the 41 key variables from the 2001 Census. These cover demographic structure, household composition, housing, socio-economic, and employment factors. They represent the key social, economic and population trends in the UK.

The team has taken its OAC work to the Eastern Regional Observatory Group, local district councils, and a wide variety of interested teams across the council. Both council officers and councillors have been very interested to see the data presented in this way.

Further developments

Gurjeet is hoping to use the Google Maps functionality that is now included in InstantAtlas. In addition to the Place Survey Hendrik and Gurjeet are looking to develop ward profile atlases that will be used by individual councillors. This could include crime data and health data, such as admissions to hospital. The idea is that this could be used for the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. They are also interested in including data on living costs and spending habits.

Key Benefits

  • Once the data is available, it can be integrated and updated into InstantAtlas templates quickly
  • The team spends less time on tasks that are resource-intensive and low priority and time is freed up to concentrate on projects that can add more value to the resulting analysis
  • Trends and local variation can be highlighted using data visualisation to non-specialist users
  • Easier access and potential greater understanding of the data by a wider range of customers
  • Local intelligence provided in these atlases can help in the development of a strong evidence base for the implementation of policies and also the submission of funding applications
  • The atlases, along with our consultation database, offer better customer insight into our local communities

TalkLIS with Cambridgeshire County Council and Julian Tyndale-Biscoe


Cambridgeshire Atlas Links

Tell your Colleagues

See also:

Mott MacDonald - ‘How data presentation is helping local authorities in Merseyside’

Government News Stories

Local Government examples of InstantAtlas dynamic reports

Learn more about Local Information Systems


Video Tutorials (hosted on YouTube)

InstantAtlas Essentials Training Playlist

InstantAtlas Desktop Tools Playlist

InstantAtlas Dynamic Reports Playlist

InstantAtlas Server Playlist

News and Articles


Arizona Department of Health Services | ‘Making data presentation meaningful when dealing with low rates of population density’


The Institute for Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of Texas | ‘Making data available to the community through easy-to-use data presentation tools’


Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) – ”How the Pan American Health Organization is using data presentation to aid the policy-making process”