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Who we are and what we do


Ordnance Survey (OS) was founded in 1791 and operates under legislation that dates back to 1841. We are responsible for the official, definitive surveying and topographic mapping of Great Britain.

In 1990 we were established as an Executive Agency and, with effect from 1 April 1999, we attained Trading Fund status under the provision of the Government Trading Funds Act 1973, as amended.

With effect from 1 April 2015 we ceased to be an Executive Agency and ceased to operate as a Trading Fund, and became a Government Owned Company, Ordnance Survey Limited. Read more about our current legal status.

Roles and responsibilities

Our corporate governance page details our accountability and responsibility, boards and committees, second tier governance and the involvement of the Shareholder Executive in our governance. You can also find our Shareholder Framework document which sets out our relationship with central government, our status and overall objectives.

Legislation relevant to our functions

Ordnance Survey Act 1841 and continuing Acts

Organisations we work in partnership with

We work closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) as the Secretary of State for BIS is the shareholder of Ordnance Survey Limited, and Ordnance Survey is accountable to Parliament through BIS ministers.

Within BIS we work very closely with the Shareholder Executive (SE), an Executive Agency of BIS. The SE represents the Shareholder as a Non-Executive Director on the OS Board and liaises with the Shareholder and provides advice in relation to our performance.

We also work closely with many public and private sector users of its information within Great Britain, including the devolved administrations, local authorities, utilities and a variety of other bodies including those responsible for land registration, transport, land and property planning and development, agricultural, natural environment and heritage activities.

We have licensed partnership relationships with a wide range of private-sector commercial organisations (which include our information in their products and services). We also work with private-sector data distributors and with commercial wholesalers and retailers of paper mapping products.

Senior staff and management Board members

You can find biographies of our Executive Directors, Non-Executive Directors and Senior Executive management team on our Directors page.

Contacting us

Search Freedom of Information requests

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© Ordnance Survey 2019