Opening Up Ordnance Survey Data – Consultation Response

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010. 5:19pm

OS consultation cover image

In response to a government consultation on ‘Policy options for geographic information from Ordnance Survey’ I wrote:

I am writing to respond to the current consultation on restructuring Ordnance Survey.

I think as much OS data as possible ought be made freely available. As public bodies are major customers of the OS the public already substantially funds the organisation. I believe the benefits to the economy and society of having OS data freely available will greatly outweigh any costs.

Making mapping data available without cost within government has the potential to improve government services.

Making images of maps available isn’t what’s important – that isn’t particularly valuable – what’s much more important is releasing the underlying data from which others can produce their own images, services, tools etc.

I think it is right for the government to run the OS and to spend public money on it, and to make its outputs available freely. I think this is a great way for the government to support commercial and social activities which are of value to the country. I think it is right for government to provide the national basic infrastructure on which so much relies.

Where the move to make mapping data free has the effect of giving a boost to commercial company profits eg. the utility companies there needs to be an arrangement to ensure the UK public see the benefits from that ie. use it as a bargaining chip when negotiating with those companies to keep bills low and investment in infrastructure high.

I think the OS ought focus on being an international centre of expertise and seek to make money by exporting its computer systems, tools, techniques etc. to other countries. Public support for it to do its core role in the UK in the best, most innovative and advanced manner can support that.

I think the OS ought focus on supplying the high quality underlying data, and with the exception of ensuring a national paper maps are available, including those aimed at tourists (supporting the tourism industry) ought not focus on offering services to consumers.

I support funding the OS through general taxation; and would oppose another tax on developers. This country has a problem with affordable housing and adding yet more to the price of new build houses and increasing the costs of buying and selling a house need to be avoided. Release of mapping data ought lubricate not restrict the housing market. With respect to utilities though I see no problem with requiring changes to be notified to the OS.

I think the National Address Register ought be maintained by government and shared freely.

I sent the above to : giconsultation at

Links to help others responding

One comment/update on “Opening Up Ordnance Survey Data – Consultation Response

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    In unprecedentedly super quick turnaround the Government has today responded to the public consultation:

    They will be releasing a lot of mapping data for free, and allowing free re-use.

    Of key importance, and directly as a result of the consultation, is the inclusion of “OS VectorMap District” – which the response says:

    … is designed to be a flexible and customisable product specifically designed for use on the web. It will enable developers to select, customise and modify maps to their specific requirements.

    A “Public Sector Mapping Agreement” designed to simplify the “purchase” within government of mapping data not released to the public for free is to be introduced to reduce crazy internal legal and procurement costs currently incurred as the one arm of the state buys things from the other.

    While there is no immediate action promised on the subject the response does say consultation responses suggested that a single National Address Register is desirable it is noted that funding / licensing barriers exist but perhaps now this has been highlighted they can be addressed.

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