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Built roads

Request for information – FOI13398

Thank you for your e-mail of 25 July 2013, requesting the following information from Ordnance Survey in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000.

The information that I am requesting is how Ordnance Survey assess the information that it has on "roads in construction", be it from HA or local authorities, to make sure that it is reliable and meets quality control criteria before going into production version maps and data. I assumed that there would be a quality control process, and that information on that would answer a set of questions like the ones I pose above, (omitted from this response) without my having to enumerate lots of different possible cases and questions.

Ordnance Survey does not hold information detailing how we assess the information we have on roads in construction in a recorded format, and is therefore unable to provide actual documentation to respond to this Freedom of Information request.

However, under Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 'the duty to provide advice and assistance' we are able to provide the following information/guidance with regard to the issue, which is the accepted custom and practice in this instance.

Since you have specifically requested information on the "verification procedure" we are able to state that Ordnance Survey's process with regard to verifying planned routes for inclusion on our maps is one of regular dialogue with the relevant Highway Authority. This seeks to ensure that the information which they have provided is related to a proposal which has a strong degree of substance, in terms of the development of the proposal within the Highway Authority.

There is also a long-standing protocol that proposals will only be provided to Ordnance Survey by the relevant Highway Authority if they have appropriate substance, since the authority carries the responsibility for the alignment shown, in the same way that they are responsible for the alignment of the Public Rights of Way which we publish on our medium scales maps.

Ordnance Survey has no direct role in the planning and design of new or altered roads. While Ordnance Survey mapping may be used as a base map by those responsible for planning and designing new and altered roads, these roles are the responsibility of the Department of Transport, The Highways Agency, The Local Authority acting as Highway Authority and their contractors, and their devolved equivalents in Scotland and Wales. In these cases the Ordnance Survey map serves solely to provide geographic context for the information which the planning or design authority is wishing to convey to others.

Where planned major routes (motorways, A and B roads) are shown by Ordnance Survey these are shown only on medium and small scales maps, and serve solely as an indication of an intention as published by the relevant highway authority. The decision to publish, results from notification to Ordnance Survey by the relevant highway authority of their firm proposal to construct a road broadly along the alignment shown. The alignment used by Ordnance Survey is that provided to us by the relevant highway authority, usually as overlays of information on an Ordnance Survey map base of an appropriate scale. These submitted plans and documents are retained by Ordnance Survey as a record of the information provided to us by each highway authority.

Hence, if Ordnance Survey is provided with information on a proposed alignment, based upon this dialogue and assurance, then, assuming that the alignment is of sufficient length to be significant to the map in question, there is a presumption to publish since Ordnance Survey has no reason to gainsay the evidence of a responsible authority. This presumption on publication is subject to ensuring that existing map detail is not compromised or obscured by the addition of the proposed alignment.

The alignments shown are included solely as additional information to aid the map user, but at a resolution which seeks to convey an indication of the planned intention, rather than to define a precise alignment which is yet to be set out in detail on the ground. As Ordnance Survey has no role in the planning or determining of the alignment of as-yet un-built roads, it must take the information provided by the relevant Highway Authority at face value and in good faith. It is not within Ordnance Survey's remit to question or seek to adjust such alignments, and indeed Ordnance Survey does not have any basis for proposing adjusted or alternative alignments. Where appropriate, the intended dates of opening of completed new roads are included, as ancillary information, on the map.

Since Ordnance Survey has regular contact with Highway Authorities, it is normal for progress of planned road developments to be checked and confirmed on a regular basis. This may result in the removal of a planned alignment if the scheme has been abandoned, or a revision to the intended date of opening, if a scheme has been delayed.

Where third party publishers operate as licensed partners of Ordnance Survey they may use proposed alignments already included on the Ordnance Survey source mapping they use for their products, but they may also choose to liaise directly with the various Highway Authorities, if this meets their commercial needs. Licensed Partners of Ordnance Survey including those who are map publishers have access to Ordnance Survey's latest available information, including under programmes of regular refresh of the data they hold.

Where a road is physically under construction, then the general alignment of the centre-line of work in progress can be portrayed on medium and small scales maps using field or aerial survey methods appropriate to the scale of the mapping. Since at this stage the alignment is shown as an indicative position, subject to final completion, again the need for quality assurance is limited to ensuring the correctness of transposition of the alignment onto the existing map – a process which forms a standard part of Ordnance Survey cartography.

With regard to detailed large scales mapping, Ordnance Survey has a number of methods for acquiring knowledge of roads which are under construction, in order to plan the precise survey of the completed alignment into the National Geographical Database. Knowledge that change is taking place is gleaned from visual evidence of ground works noted by our surveyors, or through inspection of aerial imagery, and also from monitoring public communications by Department for Transport, The Highways Agency, and their devolved equivalents in Scotland and Wales, and from Local Authorities, where these bodies are the responsible Highway Authority.

Once change in the form of new or altered roads is at a stage where survey is possible, Ordnance Survey acquires the data through surveys on the ground or by photogrammetric means (i.e.: mapping from high resolution aerial images). In rural areas some road changes are captured photogrammetrically by Ordnance Survey contractors working to agreed standards and methods as part of cyclic rural revision. Where Ordnance Survey captures the geometry of a new road alignment itself, or through its contractors, established quality assurance and quality control procedures are applied within the data capture flowlines, either to quality assure and accredit the work practices used by the surveyor or supplier, or else to quality control the specific work undertaken. Similarly, on those infrequent occasions when 'as-built' information on newly constructed roads is acquired by Ordnance Survey from third parties such as Civil Engineers or the Highway Authority, standard quality assurance processes are put in place to validate the work.

Once the geometry is captured into the Ordnance Survey database, supplementary attribution is gathered as follows:

  • Road names – by visual inspection of road name tablets, or on the formal advice of the Highway Authority as street naming authority
  • Road classification letters and numbers – by reference to The Department of Transport or devolved equivalent bodies who are the responsible authority for classifying and numbering roads and whose advice Ordnance Survey accepts since they are responsible for the definition of these matters
  • Height, weight, width and traffic control information – by reference to visual signage displays by the roadside and by reference to the relevant highway authority, who are variously responsible for establishing such restrictions. Ordnance Survey accepts the advice of these authorities as it has no jurisdiction on the definition of these matters.

Internal review
Your enquiry has been processed according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000. If you are unhappy with our response, you may request an internal review with our FOI Internal Review Officer, by contacting them as follows:

FOI Internal Review Officer
Customer Service Centre
Ordnance Survey
Adanac Drive
SO16 0AS

E-mail: foi@ordnancesurvey.co.uk

Please include the reference number above. You may request an internal review where you believe Ordnance Survey has:

  • Failed to respond to your request within the time limits (normally 20 working days)
  • Failed to tell you whether or not we hold the information
  • Failed to provide the information you have requested
  • Failed to explain the reasons for refusing a request
  • Failed to correctly apply an exemption or exception

The FOI Internal Review Officer will not have been involved in the original decision. They will conduct an independent internal review and will inform you of the outcome of the review normally within 20 working days, but exceptionally within 40 working days, in line with the Information Commissioner’s guidance.

The FOI Internal Review Officer will either: uphold the original decision, provide an additional explanation of the exemption/s applied or release further information, if it is considered appropriate to do so.

Appeal to Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
If, following the outcome of the internal review you remain unhappy with our response, you may raise an appeal with the Information Commissioner’s Office at:

The Case Reception Unit
Customer Service Team
The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

E-mail: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone helpline: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745 for advice, Monday to Friday.

Thank you for your enquiry.

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