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Updating maps due to changes

FOI14605 – Request for information


Thank you for your email of 7 November 2015, requesting the following information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000:

Please could you let me know how many times this year have maps of the UK had to be updated due to changes in roads and landscape? And how much it costs to update these maps?

Our response

I can confirm that we do not hold this information because all of our map products are generated or derived from our core large scale geospatial database and we are continuously updating this database. I can also confirm that without significant processing and analysis, separating out the information requested specifically for the features that make up just ‘Roads’ and ‘Landscape’,we would also not be able to produce any meaningful costs for just these features.

However under our duty to provide advice and assistance as stipulated in Section 16 of the FOIA, we can provide the following explanation which may assist you in this matter.

The answer to your question; “how many times this year have maps of the UK had to be updated due to changes in roads and landscape?” is probably several times on every working day of the year. As background to this answer, Ordnance Survey operates three major map revision programmes. These are:

1. Our Continuous Revision programme seeks to record in our database all significant features in Great Britain that are greater than six months old. ‘Significant’ in this context means the built environment and includes new roads, most new buildings and their associated infrastructure that exists at the time of initial survey.

2. The Rural Sweep programme utilises aerial photography to sweep the whole country on a three-year cycle picking up changes that have not been captured under the Continuous Revision programme – these might be alterations to rural hedges, fences, agricultural buildings, forestry, tracks and paths etc.

3. The Geographic Content Improvement Programme for Urban Areas is a four-year programme that is using aerial photography to systematically sweep all of the major urban areas of Great Britain to ensure that the maps for these areas can be updated for all minor changes including extensions, minor kerb alterations etc.

The magnitude of this task can be expressed in terms of the numbers of features in our core geospatial database. The last publication of OSMasterMap in October 2015 contained 452,449,936 features, a figure that is growing by some 10 million features every year. In our last complete production year, the database change amounted to 9.6m feature deletes, 19.6m feature inserts and 15.4m feature amendments.

The total cost of surveying this volume of change in the Financial Year 2014/15 was £28.9m.

For clarification, a feature is a single point, line, area symbol or piece of text. Within Ordnance Survey data, lines always break when they cross or touch another line. In the PDF example attached there are three area features (a-c), nine line features (1-9) and a single text feature

I hope the above is of use to you.

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

Email: foi@os.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

Email: 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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