Ordnance survey data released for free on the OS OpenData web site

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

OSGB Thumb

For quite some time, the United States has been unique in that most of its federal government data, including GIS data, has been free to the general public. Now, for the first time in 250 years, the Ordnance Survey of Great Britian (OSGB), has also decided to release, for free, some of its data. In this transcript of a speech given on March 22, 2010 on “Building Britain’s Digital Future”, Prime Minister Gordon Brown states, “I can confirm that from 1st April, we will be making a substantial package of information held by ordnance survey freely available to the public, without restrictions on re-use.” (There are also some interesting references to other data sets that will be made available as well.)

The Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, maintains map data at several resolutions for map products at different scales. The free data they are releasing relates to their mid-scale map products at 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 map scale. The data are avaialable on the OS OpenData Web site at: The majority of the data can be downloaded, although some has to be ordered for delivery by DVD. The OS OpenData products include:

Not surprisingly, some of the most desirable and useful data that the OSGB produces and maintains are not being released, such as the large scale (1:1,250 and 1:2,500) MasterMap data which includes vector representations of buildings and land parcels for the UK. Nonetheless, the current release provides some excellent opportunities for developers to create products without the huge financial overheads that have prevailed to date.

Note that in May OSGB will be releasing OS VectorMap District, “a new mid-scale product within the OS VectorMap family available in both raster and vector formats. It is designed to be a flexible and customisable product specifically designed for use on the web.” At this point, there are no plans to release any further data, although all the datasets will be maintained and updated.

Kudos to OSGB for making these data available — many cartographers and map makers will find these resources invaluable!

About the author

Dr. Aileen Buckley is a cartographer who’s been at Esri since 2003. She finds and shares best practices for mapping and analysis with ArcGIS, which leads her to publish widely and present world-wide.

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