Neil Ackroyd, the Ordnance Survey interim chief executive. Photo: OS

Neil Ackroyd, the Ordnance Survey interim chief executive. Photo: OS

The boss of Britain’s national mapping agency has left the organisation.

Nigel Clifford has been replaced as chief executive of Ordnance Survey by Neil Ackroyd, who has been appointed interim CEO.

Mr Clifford, a keen hillwalker and member of the Royal Geographical Society, was appointed by then business minister Matthew Hancock in 2015 following the OS’s conversion from a trading fund to a government-owned company.

Mr Ackroyd has previously served as a stand-in director-general and chief executive before Nigel Clifford’s appointment. He will continue to lead the OS’s commercial team and is an expert on GPS applications in geographical systems.

An Ordnance Survey spokesperson said: “Nigel joined OS in 2015 on a three-year contract which ended on 31 May 2018. Nigel has chosen to look for other opportunities.

“Nigel leaves OS with a strong board and leadership team, dedicated staff and an ambitious strategy focussing on GB and international markets.

“Neil Ackroyd will assume the position of Interim CEO. Neil has previously held a number of senior positions within OS. Neil will lead the ongoing OS strategy and will continue to support and welcome the development of the Geospatial Commission.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. Photo: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament CC-BY-3.0

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. Photo: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament [CC-3.0]

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the setting up of the Geospatial Commission in the November 2017 Budget. It has a brief to improve access to, links between, and quality of data of OS, the Land Registry, the British Geological Survey, Valuation Office, UK Hydrographic Office and the Coal Authority.

The UK Government said the commission would look at making more geospatial data available for free and without restriction.

The Treasury earmarked £40m for the work of the commission, and said the Government would work with Ordnance Survey and the new commission to establish how to open the OS’s MasterMap data for free use, by May this year, but no announcement has been made.

As late as 24 April, Treasury minister Liz Truss told Parliament that the Government was working with the Geospatial Commission on opening up MasterMap data to UK small businesses.

OS describes MasterMap as its definitive source of highly detailed geographic data of Great Britain. The topography layer offers mapping of the whole of Britain at scales from 1:1,250 to 1:10,000.

Welcoming the November announcement to open up MasterMap data, Dr Jeni Tennison, chief executive of the Open Data Institute, said: “This is great progress. Open access to OS MasterMap isn’t just useful on its own; it will remove current legal barriers that limit the availability of other data – from the foreign ownership of land to the locations of parking spaces – which is essential to understand and tackle housing and transport challenges.

“It is fantastic to see government committing to give great institutions like Ordnance Survey the support they need to provide data infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

“From our experience across other sectors, from banking to physical activity, we know these changes aren’t straightforward.

“The Geospatial Commission and the institutions it works with will need to collaborate with businesses and civil society to understand the data they need, to enlist their help to improve its quality, and to promote innovation. We and our network are here to support this transformation.”

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