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Roadmap to recovery

How location data is helping Britain’s recovery with UPRNs and USRNs

Britain’s economic recovery relies on fast information. When data is easily accessible and shared it leads to sound policy decisions and innovations in the economy.  Location identifiers are the key to enabling better access and sharing of information. 

What are location identifiers?

In the same way individual people have National Insurance numbers, key location identifiers are used to identify unique physical locations in Great Britain. A unique location identifier is normally a number used for each record in a dataset. Using this number as a reference, makes it easier to combine datasets and speed up the matching of valuable information.

It also ensures a consistent way of referring to an item or record between multiple organisations so they can work more efficiently together and reduce duplication and errors in data sharing and transfer.

In the UK, two of the most important location identifiers are the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) and the Unique Street Reference Number (USRN). These are available in all Ordnance Survey addressing data sets. 


Using location identifiers leads to significant savings for local authorities. One study projects for every £1 spent on location data, there is a return of £4. These benefits include reduced data duplication, improved tax revenues and improved public services, such as route planning – from recycling to school buses.

These benefits are realised because information and insight is unlocked when location identifiers enable automated data processing, sharing and integration of datasets.

Using location identifiers leads to significant savings for local authorities.
Using location identifiers leads to significant savings for local authorities.

Location data also enables the fast and effective response required from the emergency services – both by taking the most efficient routes to the scene, and by quickly identifying the correct address. UPRNs and USRNs allow for support to reach those who need it most.

Furthermore, UPRNs and USRNs are helping to support the switch to greener forms of transport, such as electric-vehicles. Local and central government can share geospatial data vital to the development of relevant infrastructure.

"‘But it’s when we start projecting the benefits of these identifiers as a backdrop to policy and progress, that we start to see the potential gains writ large,’ "
Richard Duffield, Head of Customers Insights at Geoplace

Government mandate

The benefits of identifiers have proved so significant they are now mandatory in central government, with rising adoption levels in local government. The Government Digital Service has mandated that UPRN and USRN are to be the public sector standard for referencing and sharing property and street information, and has set out the move in a new open ID policy.

The aim of the move is to allow greater connectivity and sharing of data between government and businesses.

The government has stated, that the open release and new open ID policy will result in greater sharing of data and information linked to roads and properties. It will drive better decision making, deliver efficiencies and benefit the citizen.

Getting started with location identifiers

The 1 July saw the launch of the OS Data Hub where all OS Open data can be accessed, including our new open identifier products; OS Open UPRN, OS Open USRN, OS Open TOID and OS Open Linked Identifiers. 

OS Open URPN gives open access to a 12-digit number allocated to every addressable location in Britain – giving all these locations a unique identifier.  OS Open USRN gives an 8-digit number for every street footpath and right of way. And there is an OS Open TOID for everything in GB, be it a fence, hedge, road junction, stream, power line, garden, wood.

OS Open Linked Identifiers provide the relationship between two specific identifiers, such as individual properties (UPRNs) and the streets they are on (USRNs), useful, for example, in the planning and management of waste collection.

These new products can be used under the Open Government Licence and are supported by the updated open identifier policy, which will make linking and analysing location-based information easier.

Learn more about location identifiers.

For more information about UPRNs, USRNs, and the Power of Place, visit GeoPlace.