Production of paper maps faced potential damage if the original proposals were adopted

Production of paper maps faced 'potential damage' if the original proposals were adopted

The long-awaited results of the Government’s Ordnance Survey consultation were announced today.

Walkers and outdoor enthusiasts had hoped for a bonanza, with free mapping at the favoured scales used in Explorer maps. They are likely to be deeply disappointed.

The setting up of the OpenData portal is being touted by the Government as a historic milestone towards transforming Britain into a 21st century digital economy, it will leave most outdoor mapping firmly where it was previously.

There will be no free ‘raster’ mapping at 1:25,000 scale – one of the eagerly awaited innovations tantalisingly hinted at in Gordon Brown’s pronouncements in the lead-up to the three-month consultation and at its closure.

Instead, Ordnance Survey will in May launch VectorMap District, which will include midscale data and replaces the 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 originally proposed in the consultation document but, grough can reveal, will not have footpaths and other detail vital to walkers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

It will include, according to an OS spokesperson, ‘roads, buildings, railway lines, vegetation, hill spot heights and community amenities such as schools, hospitals and leisure centres’, but which isn’t designed for outdoor leisure.

The spokesperson said it is specifically meant for displaying information on the web. Leisure information could be added by users, the spokesperson said. However, this would mean gathering such information from field observations, surveys and aerial photography. On mapping not included in OpenData, current restrictive OS ‘derived data’ rules – long a bone of contention for map re-users – will continue for the present. Mapping released under OpenData will now be free from such rules.

The Government said in its response to the consultation : “This change addresses two concerns expressed by respondents about both the inclusion of 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 raster products. These were the potential damage to the national coverage of Ordnance Survey Landranger and Explorer paper maps and the absence of a mid-scale vector product to enable further innovation by developers.”

The outcome of the OS consultation is aimed almost exclusively at promoting innovative use of geographic information on websites and other electronic means of using these data.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the changes will enable members of the public, entrepreneurs and social organisations to be able to access certain Ordnance Survey data and use it for applications such ‘Fix My Street’ or crime mapping.

Communities Secretary John Denham said: “Increasing access to Ordnance Survey data will attract a new wave of entrepreneurs and result in new solutions to old problems that will benefit us all. It will also drive a new industry, creating new jobs and driving future growth.

“The changes signal a wider cultural change in Government based on an assumption that information should be in the public domain unless there is a good reason not to – not the other way around. Greater openness, accountability and transparency in Government will give people greater choice and make it easier for individuals to get more directly involved in issues that matter to them.”

Vanessa Lawrence: world-class quality

Vanessa Lawrence: 'world-class quality'

Vanessa Lawrence, director general and chief executive of Ordnance Survey, said: “Over the past few months we have been working extremely hard to put in place all the steps which were necessary in order to deliver the Prime Minister’s objective.

“I believe that OS OpenData delivers on that vision, providing a wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping for reuse and without restriction.

“Since the release of the public consultation we have seen the launch of Data.gov.uk which demonstrates how important high quality and well maintained geography is in enabling data from different sources to be linked, used and understood.

“I am therefore pleased that Ordnance Survey  data , long recognised as world class, for currency, accuracy and quality,  has been identified as having a fundamental role to play  as key to underpinning in the future growth of the Smarter Government and Making Public Data Public initiatives.”

The 1:50,000 gazetteer, which enables place-name searches, and 1:250,000 scale colour raster mapping will be free, along with digital height-data.

grough, which is a partner of OS in its grough route planning and mapping system, is currently examining possibilities for development of its system after the Government’s announcement, and will announce its plans shortly.

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