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

Memorandum by Ramblers' Association (OS 10)

  1.  The Ramblers' Association (RA) is a voluntary organisation and registered charity founded in 1935. We have over 208,000 supporters consisting of more than 131,000 individual members and 77,000 members of affiliated clubs and societies. Our four core aims are to promote walking, to protect public rights of way, to campaign for access to open country and to defend the beauty of the countryside.

  2.  The RA takes a close interest in the workings of the Ordnance Survey (OS) as well as its products and the OS recognises that the RA is a key stakeholder in its work. We firmly believe that OS should remain in the public realm, providing a national mapping service as recognised by the National Interest Mapping Services Agreement (NIMSA). We commented in detail earlier this year to the Government's quinquennial review of the OS but have yet to hear the findings of that review.

  3.  Nationally, the RA liaises with OS on a range of issues, for example with feedback on new OS products such as the new Explorer series of maps, copyright issues, sponsorship and partnership deals, and publicity and reviews of new OS products in our magazine and yearbook. Locally, our volunteers have over the years provided, at the request of OS, a free proofreading and checking service of rights of way on draft maps as new OS maps are rolled-out. Our members are active users of OS products, particularly the excellent Outdoor Leisure and Explorer series of maps.


  4.  The RA has no real experience of the current OS pricing model's effect on planning appeals or the cost of updating and maintaining databases. However we have the following brief comments on the other matters of interest to the committee.

  5.  The RA's Welsh office and Central office both hold Business Use licences which we believe to be value for money and a welcome innovation. The only drawback is that we have found the terms to be rather vague and when seeking clarification from OS about our precise requirements (eg whether our members are covered when engaged in the new access land mapping fieldwork for the Countryside Agency) we have been given differing replies from the copyright section. It seems paramount that this issue is clarified and the OS, as a government agency working for the national interest, seeks to assist both the Countryside Agency and voluntary bodies engaged in this vital national mapping work.

  6.  Our Central office also has a free licence which allows our magazine to reproduce limited extracts of OS copyright material. We believe this is a new arrangement and it is very welcome.

  7.  We have had little direct experience in producing guide books but our Areas and Groups, who do produce many guide books and pamphlets on local walks, rarely comment on the licence price and royalty charges, which indicates that the present fees are not prohibitive. However, we do believe that the prices should be kept at their present levels so as not to discourage production of guide books.

  8.  In conclusion, we find that the licensing system is reasonable value for money for the activities we undertake. Our understanding is that past licence fees were prohibitively expensive to small organisations—be they businesses or non-profit making bodies, and resulted in a greater amount of illegal copying. If there is any suggestion of increasing the licence fees then we would suggest that there should be a low cost band or separate licence for charitable organisations rather than one Business Use licence.

  9.  The RA understands that the OS must be commercially competitive and developing innovative new technology is fundamental to attracting business. However we are concerned that the map buying public may be bearing some of the costs for digital OS products primarily geared towards business. For instance the price of the Explorer and Outdoor Leisure series of maps recently rose steeply (the increase in Explorer map prices was 22 per cent). We believe that these products still give good value for money but the OS must be wary of further excessive increases. If this happens then the problem of illegal copying will increase and turnover will fall as individuals and organisations replace their maps less frequently or turn to competitors. The RA understands that providing the national coverage of mapping in the form of paper products receives partial funding from NIMSA. This should continue and the next settlement should be increased if OS are having difficulty engaging in uncommercial mapping activities.

  10.  The cost of larger scale paper products and new digital mapping technology is well out of reach to the RA, similar organisations and members of the public at the moment. Our volunteers find the 1:10,000 series of particular use in their work on rights of way and access as this is the scale commonly used by local authorities in preparing definitive maps of public rights of way. The OS should recognise that there is a market for these forms of mapping from organisations such as the RA and a reasonable and realistic price band for access to these products would provide a new stream of income for the OS.

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