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Boundary-Line support

Boundary Line data product contains all levels of electoral and administrative boundaries, from district, wards and civil parishes (or communities) up to parliamentary, assembly and European constituencies.

For a map of historic and ceremonial counties, visit our interactive GB counties map.

Polling districts

Polling districts for England are now available as a supplementary file to the Boundary-Line data in the May 2016 release, available from the OS OpenData ordering page. Although the dataset is not yet complete, as we don’t have all polling district information, we wanted it to be available as soon as possible. Over the next 12 months we’ll be adding more polling districts and making any changes necessary as a result of recent legislative change.

A polling district is a geographical area created by local authorities to assist the administrative process of running an election. Each ward or electoral division in England and Wales is divided into one or more polling districts.

In England, each parish is to be a separate polling district and, in Wales, each community should be a separate polling district, unless there are special circumstances. This means that a parish or community must not be in a polling district which has a part of either a different parish or community within it, or any un-parished part of the local authority area within it, unless special circumstances apply. Those special circumstances could arise if, for example, the parish/community has only a small number of electors and it is not practicable for the parish/community to be its own polling district

The Welsh equivalent (community wards) are also released as a supplementary data set, the Scottish equivalent are not supplied.

Forward-dated boundary polygons for wards

We have produced the data that you can download below to assist the ward boundary review process carried out by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. This data has been provided ahead of the scheduled release of Boundary-Line and does not contain the full attribution normally contained within the product.

Historic counties

Download for free and view boundaries of historic counties such as Westmorland, Radnorshire and Wigtownshire from the late Nineteenth Century.

The links above represent counties based on historic records and mapping circa 1888 and using the primary sources of the Local Government (England and Wales) Act 1888, the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889 and the Sheriffs Act 1887. Learn more:

We have published an interactive map that shows both historic and current ceremonial counties.

Current ceremonial counties

Download for free and view the current ceremonial county boundaries of Great Britain, such as Bedfordshire, Berkshire and the West Midlands.

General FAQ

Which classes, levels and types of boundaries are included in Boundary-Line?

Boundary-Line contains all the current (operative) administrative and electoral boundaries for Great Britain.

They consist of:

  • Civil parishes
  • Wards
  • Communities
  • Districts
  • Counties
  • Metropolitan districts
  • Unitary authorities
  • Parliamentary constituencies
  • Electoral divisions
  • London boroughs
  • Greater London authorities
  • Greater London authority assembly constituencies
  • European electoral regions
  • Welsh assembly constituencies
  • Welsh assembly electoral regions
  • Scottish parliamentary constituencies and;
  • Scottish parliamentary electoral regions

The product also contains mean high water mark (MHW), extent of realm (EOR) also census agency codes supplied by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS).

Does Boundary-Line data show Parish wards?

No, civil parish wards are not shown in Boundary-Line. We only show the parish, we do not show the internal parish wards or any associated council references.

Why are there polygons in the parish files with no information?

We have polygons in the parish data that do not have any attribution – no records attached, formally known as Non Civil Parishes (NCP's- i.e. Non Parished Areas), these ‘blank’ polygons are shown to complete the parish layer, because a polygon dataset cannot have ‘gaps’.

  • Parish polygon attributes will only be populated if Ordnance Survey has the information from the local authority;
  • Parishes do not exist as a result of being superseded by other local government units, i.e. unitary authority areas will not have parishes.
When a Parish comes into existence; can you confirm how long these types of changes should take to be reflected in Boundary-Line data?

Parishes are created and managed separately from the other electoral and administrative boundaries represented in Boundary-Line. To amend a parish the Parish councillors make an appropriate submission to their Local Authority.

The information relating to the parish changes should then be sent to Ordnance Survey directly from the Local Authorities, as they are required to inform Ordnance Survey of any name changes under the Local Government Act (1972) and the more recent Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act (2007) for name and boundary alignments.

On receipt of the parish update information we would expect to capture that in the appropriate Boundary-Line 6 monthly scheduled releases. We can only amend the parish boundaries after receiving this official notification.

In addition parish information updates will be more frequently available, once confirmation is received, as the large scale OS MasterMap Topography boundary information is continuously updated.

What is the difference between the boundaries contained in the OSMM Topography Layer and Boundary-Line data?

Boundary-Line is a separate product from OS MasterMap Topography; the Topography Layer is captured at a different scale and from a different production system. Only OSMM Topography Layer currently holds the definitive and more accurate boundary information as the boundaries are mered (aligned to) real-world features on the ground. Captured at mapping scales of 1:1250 (for urban areas), 1:2500 (for rural) and 1:10k (for mountain and moorland). All electoral and administrative boundaries are contained within the OSMM Topographic layer. It is a point and line structured dataset and does not contain polygons.

Boundary-Line is captured against a lower resolution mapping backdrop and the boundaries are captured to represent the data at a nominal 1:10000 viewing scale. The process of generalising the data may have caused some features to be moved from their true ground position for the purpose of map clarity. The result being that Boundary-Line and the OSMM Topographic boundaries are not always coincident (when overlaid they will not always have the same alignment). Boundary- Line is a polygon structured dataset.

N.B. these datasets are not designed to be used together as they will not give exact replication of boundary position.

What is the difference between nested and layered boundaries?

Nested boundaries

The data is supplied by named files, all the named files include all of the other sub‑levels of electoral boundaries that belong under that high level administration (for example, County file) will have the named county, district, district ward, civil parish, county ED contained within. Unitary authorities will have named unitary authority, unitary authority ward or unitary authority ED as appropriate, civil parish where appropriate, together with community in Wales. The nested structure is only available in ESRI Shapefile.

Layered boundaries

This is a simplified file structure supplying the boundaries as individual files, for example, County file contains only counties, and unitary authorities file contains just unitary authorities. The layered structure is only available in ESRI Shapefile.

What does the area value of a polygon include?

Area values of each polygon in Boundary‑Line include the Extent Of Realm (EOR) limit. The total area values are quoted to the current Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) specification of 0.001 hectare. However, other government statistical department data is based on Standard Area Measurements (SAM), which only includes the land area contained within a polygon deleting any inland hydrology or EOR areas.

Do Topography Layer boundaries represent legal property extents?

No the boundaries shown in OS MasterMap Topography Layer are only representative of the electoral and administrative boundaries. For ‘property extents’ it would be advisable to contact Land Registry directly.

Our Council would like to change the boundary of our District, how do we go about doing this?

This is under the jurisdiction of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and not an Ordnance Survey responsibility. Although we assist in the boundary making / change process we do not have any influence over the decision making or boundary positioning process.

Sometimes the process involves the Boundary Commissions who may be directed by the Department for Communities and Local Government to undertake reviews of the external boundary of a district or county. If there is a requirement for a review to take place in your area then the interested party/parties should write to DCLG and make their case.

The boundary at a particular location is not aligned where I thought it should be why is this?

There may be three reasons for this:

OSMM Topography boundaries were affected by our Positional Accuracy Improvement programme (PAI). This programme enabled Ordnance Survey to produce a more consistent accuracy standard of mapping data, for rural areas and to future-proof the data for the addition of new building development and other feature changes. This meant some realignment of the ground features which meant the associated boundary position had to be moved to match them. Boundary-Line is a boundary dataset that is generally in alignment with the large scale data positioning, but it may vary slightly due to the PAI giving different positions or that the 1:10000 scale mapping used to digitise Boundary-Line against cannot show the features in detail so giving a best placement based on the textural descriptions and mapping used.

  • It may be that the update cycle for the mapping is less frequent than the boundary data so there may be a difference in the currency of information.
  • Natural and gradual change: In naturally flowing watercourses the bed of the river or stream, through natural action gradually moves by erosion and silting. This may over a lengthy period of time result in considerable change to the position of the watercourse. Where a boundary is defined as being related to the watercourse which slowly and imperceptibly changes its course the boundary will be aligned to the altered channel.
Can we obtain Boundary-Line data showing the new boundaries?

Boundary–Line is updated and released twice a year, in May and October. Each release will have all the new and amended boundaries that are operative (live) within a one year period (1st May to 31st April). We only show the current operative boundaries in the Boundary-Line product.

However, due to market requirements we have supplied alongside the Boundary-Line product future dated (pre operative) Westminster Parliamentary boundaries. These supplementary files will only be included in the Boundary-Line product at the next suitable release, after the General Election has taken place. This future dated boundary data is part of the specification and so is included in the Boundary-Line license fee.

Can we order Change Only Updates (COU)?

Change Only Update data is not available for this product due to the current and future boundary complex relationships within the production system.

When will Boundary-Line be updated as we have had a constituency change and this is not identified on the May update and for us to upgrade our system databases, and we also require the Office for National Statistics (ONS) codes for our wards?

Boundary-Line is updated from Statutory Instruments (SI’s) and information received from the official boundary making bodies. We map the boundary stages to ensure if the SI is signed off from Parliament in time we can incorporate it into the next release of the product. However, sometimes the final ‘sign off’ is too late for us to capture and so misses the release it was expected to be in. All notifications of which boundaries have been included and those that have not are listed on the Product CD in the DOC folder and also in Annex A of the Boundary-Line User Guide.

The codes included in Boundary-Line come directly from ONS and are only representative of the current boundaries that we supply. If you need to identify the ONS code separately then we may be able to assist in providing that information or you can contact ONS directly.

Do you hold historical information on changes to electoral arrangement, areas and names of Local Authorities, Westminster Parliamentary or European Parliamentary boundaries?

Yes. We have recorded changes from 1973 onwards and where available provide links to the legislation for that change.

What is the extent of realm (EOR)?

The EOR is the seaward limit of the administrative units. The boundary alignment is digitised to the Mean Low Water (springs) MLWS) to represent the seaward extent within Boundary-Line.

Does Boundary-Line include every pier or structure that extends into the sea?

Boundary-Line does not show all items that ‘extend’ into the sea. We show structures such as a pier, seaward extension or structure in the sea that has been included in a specific Act of Parliament, and or are a permanent and solid structure (i.e. Brighton marina). Piers and extensions that are elevated over the sea; on stilts or floating pontoons, will only be included if they are identified as being part of the local authority area by an Act of Parliament. Structures in the sea can be separate or joined to the mainland; if they are joined to the mainland they are generally included in local government and parliamentary areas. If separate they are not included unless they are included therein by legislation for example Torbay and Bristol.

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