Dr Richard Waite, managing director of ESRI UK

Dr Richard Waite, managing director of ESRI UK

The head of a company dealing in geographic information said today that the Government had ignored the views of industry in its move towards providing Ordnance Survey data free of charge.

Richard Waite, managing director of ESRI UK, said he had serious concerns about the future of OS under the new arrangements.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced yesterday that the Government would make available mapping data for free re-use from 1 April. The public consultation on the future of OS arrangements closed last week, and sought views on three options, two of which would see OS data, including maps at the most popular scales for walkers and cyclists, provided without charge from next month.

Dr Waite, head of the UK arm of the multinational geographic information company, said: “The vision for making public data more freely available is welcome. However, by announcing the conclusion of a consultation that only closed last week, it appears the Government has disregarded industry submissions and as a result risks damaging the Ordnance Survey and the UK economy, while missing a key opportunity to deliver real change.

“We work on a daily basis with a very wide range of public- and private-sector customers who need large scale Ordnance Survey data in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their organisations.

“Currently the cost of this data puts it beyond the reach of many organisations, particularly in the private sector. If we are to create real economic value for the UK, it is the availability of large-scale datasets, at reasonable prices, that needs to be addressed, rather than releasing mid- and small- scale datasets for free.”

Mapping at 1:25,000 and 1:50,000, the scales of most interest to outdoor-leisure enthusiasts, is classed as mid-scale.

Dr Waite continued: “We appear to be moving towards a decision to release a selection of mid- and small- scale Ordnance Survey products for free, without due regard being given to the future funding of the Ordnance Survey or whether this will drive real economic growth for the UK. This gives us serious cause for concern.”

Full details of the Government decision are expected within the next week.

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