Jump to the following:

We use cookies to improve this website. Read about cookies

Our role in the EU INSPIRE Directive

The European Union INSPIRE Directive

Geographic information does not currently join up between European countries – but the environment does. Major disasters such as forest fires, floods and industrial explosions do not respect national boundaries. To manage the environment better at a European level, change is needed in how geographical information is made available. The INSPIRE Directive (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) seeks to make those changes happen. It applies to all Member States and concerns:

  • creation of metadata
  • interoperable data specifications
  • network services
  • sharing arrangements

The Directive itself and additional Regulations set out the details.

1. Scope

The legal obligations apply to spatial datasets, which relate to 34 themes. These are needed by public authorities for activities relating to the environment. The themes include reference information such as addresses and administrative areas, and thematic information such as industrial facilities and species distributions.

2. Organisations affected

Public authorities and organisations carrying out duties on behalf of public authorities are in scope. Ordnance Survey, as a government department and agency, is included.

Ordnance Survey’s roles

  1. We are a Legally Mandated Organisation (LMO) under the INSPIRE Directive – this means that part of our mandate from government is to provide data which falls within the scope of the Directive. This bring us as an organisation within scope, and means we have to publish that data which falls within scope to the requirements of the legislation.
  2. We are a Technical Delivery Partner to the INSPIRE Compliance Project led by Defra and are helping provide the IT, organisational and process developments necessary for INSPIRE in the UK.
  3. We have provided experts to sit on various Drafting Teams and Working Groups of the European Commission which have drawn the regulations and guidance for the INSPIRE Directive. We are also now involved in the maintenance process.

What these roles mean

Role 1. INSPIRE Legally Mandated Organisation

What we must do

For data in scope (for Ordnance Survey, this means most of the data in our products) we have to:

Phase 1:

  • Make metadata available via a Discovery Service
    • In the UK, this is linked to the data.gov.uk portal, through which users can search the metadata.
  • Provide the products through a View Service to allow users with compatible software to view the data
    • We have enhanced OS OnDemand to meet the INSPIRE requirements.
  • Provide the products through a Download Service to allow users to download all or part of the dataset, and potentially a Web Feature Service.
    • Our products are generally downloadable and ATOM feeds provide update information in line with INSPIRE guidance.
  • Ensure our sharing arrangements are compliant with the legislation
    • We have reviewed our arrangements to ensure they comply.

Phase 2:

  • Produce our data to the INSPIRE specifications

The schedule for publication of INSPIRE compliant data runs to 2020. We are currently consulting our customers on the technical details and usability of INSPIRE compliant data for Addresses, Elevation (OS Terrain), Geographic names (a new gazetteer), and Hydrography (water network). Through EuroGeographics and the European Location Framework project, we are working with European mapping agencies on what INSPIRE might mean for consistent mid and small scale contextual mapping.

What we will not have to do

We do not have to collect any new data or change our business model. There will be no changes to our intellectual property rights. This does not preclude us making changes to these things in the normal course of business improvement.


The deadline dates stretch from December 2010 through to 2020. Most of the services were developed in the first 2 years. In Phase 1, they carry our existing products. Most data does not have to be produced to INSPIRE specifications until 2017 or later, but we are thinking about changes to our content right now, so we can be ready to roll out any changes earlier, if it is beneficial to our customers.

Role 2. Technical Delivery Partner to the UK INSPIRE Programme

The Government Response to the Ordnance Survey Consultation said Ordnance Survey would be the Technical Delivery Partner for the services that are required to meet Britain’s obligations under INSPIRE.

What this means

Since that announcement was made, the Location Council determined that the View and Discovery Services should be provided through www.data.gov.uk. As a result, we have worked with Defra and the Cabinet Office, which owns the data.gov.uk website, to develop a number of services including an external facing web catalogue service, and spatial search and preview functions. We have also created and maintained re-usable technical components to help data providers and publishers to meet their INSPIRE obligations. This includes a metadata editor and user documentation around open source GeoServer software to support data publishers in the delivery of other services.

Role 3. Experts in Europe

Ordnance Survey has provided experts throughout the development of the INSPIRE Directive legislation and subsequently in the drafting of implementing rules and guidance. In total around a dozen staff have contributed their expertise so far, and we continue to provide experts for the maintenance process.

Our strategy

We fully support the principles of INSPIRE. As the national mapping agency for Great Britain, we understand that we have a responsibility to lead, since many of our public sector customers who also have obligations under this legislation are dependent on our data to discharge their own obligations. We will comply and support our customers in their compliance.

Further information

If you have more detailed questions about our involvement in INSPIRE, do get in touch.

Back to top
© Ordnance Survey 2016
Be sure to take a look at our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy