An OS surveyor at work. Explorer maps will not be offered free

An OS surveyor at work. Explorer maps will not be offered free

The Ramblers today expressed extreme disappointment with the Government’s failure to provide free maps at scales used by walkers in its move to liberalise the national mapping agency.

The results of the three-month OS consultation were released at midnight. The expected free provision of Explorer mapping – used by most walkers and outdoor enthusiasts – was replaced by a new VectorMap District service to be launched in May. This will not include information on footpaths and bridleway essential to walkers to navigate in rural areas.

The Ramblers did give a cautious welcome to the free 1:10,000-scale Street View maps that will be available free to the public from the OS’s OpenData site and which can be reused by both private and commercial concerns.

The charity said the free datasets will not include digital versions of 1:25,000 Explorer and 1:50,000 Landranger maps.

The Ramblers, who urged the Government to include these maps during the consultation last year, have expressed extreme disappointment that their suggestions have been ignored.

Ramblers’ everyday walking officer, Des de Moor, said: “While Street View and some of the other free data will be useful and this is a step in the right direction, we’re very disappointed that the Government apparently lost its nerve with releasing Landranger and Explorer.

“These maps provide a familiar view of the walking environment for many millions of walkers and making them free for re-use would have provided the easiest and most effective way to enable keen volunteers to share their walking knowledge with others.

“We know one of the reasons people don’t walk more is that they don’t know good places to walk, and access to mapping is essential in overcoming that barrier. And more people walking more often is something the Government agrees is a good thing, helping tackle obesity and even climate change.”

The launch of OS’s free data services was celebrated today by Communities Secretary John Denham at the organisation’s Southampton headquarters. An emergency statutory instrument was laid before Parliament yesterday to allow OS to double its borrowing from £40m to £80m as the infrastructure for the new services is set up.

The objections raised by the Department for Communities and Local Government to the release of free 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 maps were:

  • The release of these products for free would have a detrimental impact on existing market participants who produce competing products or value-added products derived from these
  • Raster products are unsuitable for data ‘mash-ups’ as they are static pictures rather than being data-based products
  • The availability of raster products is not a barrier to innovation (and they could be provided by a service such as OS OpenSpace)
  • Similar free alternatives already exist such as Google Map, Microsoft Bing
  • The release of these products could result in an increased risk to the viability of Ordnance Survey paper maps, as competitors could ‘cherry-pick’ the most valuable areas of the country to produce paper maps using the freely available 1:25 000 and 1:50 000-scale colour raster products.

Comments also suggested that distributors of Ordnance Survey data would be adversely affected by the removal of revenue streams, as a result of the data being made available for free. A number of market participants thought there would be particularly adverse impacts as a result of releasing1:10,000, 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 raster products.

Among those who submitted responses to the Government were Harvey Maps, Google, aerial photography and map firm Getmapping, Microsoft, Navteq and Viewranger.

grough, which is a commercial partner of OS in the grough route planning and mapping system, will review options for its service in the light of the consultation decision.

  • The Ordnance Survey OpenData website crashed on its first day of operation as the weight of demand proved too much.

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