Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (OS 05)

  The Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES) is pleased to present evidence to the inquiry into certain matters relating to the Ordnance Survey. The ICES supports, encourages and regulates the professional aspirations of Commercial Managers and Geospatial Engineers working within the civil engineering sector and to increase the value of their services to the public. These surveyors have developed a distinctive expertise in and understanding of the special surveying requirements of the civil engineering industry. The ICES has an international membership though most are based within the UK, indeed, some members are within the workforce of the Ordnance Survey. The ICES was formed in 1969.

  Geospatial Engineers in particular make heavy use of Ordnance Survey products and data and are therefore well placed as customers to provide feedback. In recent years, very few civil engineering projects do not have an OS spatial and height reference. It is recognised throughout the profession that there have been significant improvements in data supply in just the last few years, largely through the wider availability of new technology and information transfer.

  Much of the current inquiry areas are not generally covered by the Civil Engineering sector, however addressing this inquiry's terms of reference, the ICES comments are as follows:

    Ordnance Surveys' pricing structure in relation to copyright charging, the current pricing models effect on planning appeals, licence fees for guide books, the cost of updating and maintaining databases, the effect of new technology on costs.

    Taking the last point first, the availability of much freely available map data from the web has a positive effect in encouraging even wider use of OS products and the ICES would encourage further data be openly accessed. The exchange of spatial data within the profession, the industry and within individual projects becomes far more usable and understandable if it is to a common reference. While we would all want low cost or freely available data, it is widely understood that Government policy is that the OS has to be largely self-financing. The end users of geospatial data in construction and civil engineering have harnessed new technology to a high degree; any pricing structure that simplifies the process however can only encourage an even wider application.

    Much database information currently held is referenced to Ordnance Datum, until recently this was mainly derived from the established Bench Mark network which is no longer being maintained. An area of criticism is that this data, with many BMs no longer existing, is still being sold by the Ordnance Survey with no acceptance of responsibility. We feel this is an unfair practice, the information should be provided free. Broadly similar comments could also relate to National Grid information, though this probably falls outside the terms of reference on this Enquiry.

    The other points are areas where our breadth of expertise at present precludes us from making specific comments other than the general view given above.

    The provision of maps for electioneering, the funding for this, and the Data Protection implications.

    Again these are areas largely outside our usual field of activity, the general comments above would apply.

  Although the scope of this inquiry is fairly narrow for the civil engineering sector, the Institution would be happy to provide further relevant evidence if called. Furthermore, much of the feedback we received from members indicates that there are other more technical areas of the Ordnance Survey's remit that we would care to comment and make suggestions upon. Should the wider aspects of the Ordnance Survey be examined in future, the ICES would be pleased to provide evidence.

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