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

Memorandum by RICS (OS 16)


  Firstly we would like to take this opportunity to thank the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee for this opportunity to provide evidence for the Inquiry in to Ordnance Survey.

  As the Geomatics Faculty for the RICS and the facilitator in any response or enquiry relating to Ordnance Survey, we have been asked to reply to your request for evidence for the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee. This evidence has been provided with the support of the Geomatics membership of the RICS.

  RICS has actively engaged with Ordnance Survey through the Standing Committee of Professional Map Users (SCPMU), which represents the professional users including surveyors, planners, engineers and lawyers. In addition the RICS has a Map Users Policy Panel (MUPP), which enables members to respond to consultation and information papers from the Ordnance Survey on behalf of the institution. Our response to your letter is formed from the views of SCPMU, MUPP and RICS Geomatics Faculty.

  To date the various consultative committees, their span of coverage and their terms of reference remained broadly unchanged since the 1970's and reform is, perhaps, now overdue as we move towards e-business environments.

  Ordnance Survey publishes all consultation and information papers through its main website Ordnance Survey has comprehensively reviewed their consultative procedures (see Consultation Paper 1/2001: Consultation Review). Although in general broad agreement with the proposals contained within this paper, we would like the new procedures to be implemented as quickly as possible.

  We would wish to capitalise upon the benefits of electronic communication with much greater use of our website. We also hope to target consultation more effectively at those to whom a particular issue has special importance.

  Our members in Local Government through collective negotiation have been generally pleased with Ordnance Survey's performance under a Service Level Agreement, which has shown significant cost savings.

  The RICS is supportive of the Ordnance Survey move to structured Ordnance Survey data through the Digital National Framework and the offer by Ordnance Survey of arrangements to enable Local Authorities to access the MasterMap data from day one of release.

  Concerns have been voiced about the management and strategies for the proposed introduction of Change-only-updates in the context of MasterMap data and the knock on effects of this on Ordnance Survey end-users. Although, we feel that we should leave others to comment.

  Our members in Central Government have access to a service level agreement, which has also shown significant savings with Ordnance Survey's pricing structure in relation to copyright charging. We view the papers Consultation Paper 6/2000: pricing & licensing of detailed datasets and Information Paper 10/2000: pricing & licensing—introduction of new arrangements, as a strong indication of the desire of the Ordnance Survey to simplify and provide value within their future pricing structure. We believe this offers the potential for significant cost savings for our Chartered members who use Ordnance Survey data. The e-business strategy of the Ordnance Survey is also welcomed although we would like to add the caveat that hard copy mapping should be made available as long as required by customers.

  Other issues of concern to the Institution, although not directly related to the work of the sub-committee, are itemised below.

    —  The height control issue: RICS is becoming increasingly concerned by the degradation of the primary height control network within the UK. Benchmarks are not longer being replaced or checked. GPS cannot as yet provide accurate height information as required by many of our members. Within the residential and commercial sectors, this raises the issue of large areas of property becoming "blighted" due to inaccurate heighting information being used within flooding evaluation studies by insurance companies.

    —  Positional accuracy issues: Ordnance Survey is now implementing a comprehensive positional accuracy programme that will lead to the MasterMap product being GPS compatible. We believe Ordnance Survey should bear in mind the cost of updating existing Ordnance Survey data to large organisations, practices and local government. Information Paper 1/2001: Positional accuracy at 1:2,500.

    —  Although we do not believe this is the correct forum to discuss the reconciliation between Ordnance's Survey's TOID system and the National Land and Property Gazetteer. A number of issues do emanate from this dichotomy. The issue of "future-proofing" (ie the ability to time trace topographical elements) has not been resolved. Historical mapping data can be crucial in some areas of practice. The locating and data management of property information is becoming increasingly important to many of our members and many large surveying practices. It is critical, in view of current "joined-up-government" initiatives to have agreement on property identifiers.

  The Urban Affairs Sub-committee press release also asks for information relating to specific areas which we attempt to address below.

  With regard to Ordnance Survey's current pricing model on planning appeals, we do not see this as an issue for Local Planning Authorities. The Service Level Agreement within Local Government allows the internal use of data to support the planning process, and allows authorities to provide the public with map extracts to submit planning applications. It is felt that the royalty charge to Ordnance Survey paid by the applicant is a reasonable charge for the service.

  With regard to the provision of maps for electioneering, we understand that there have been some issues concerning the ability of authorities to supply candidates with mapping for electioneering purposes. Under the terms of the Service Level Agreement, current Elected Members have the ability to access and use Ordnance Survey Mapping under the participants internal business use licence. However it is less clear if prospective candidates would have the same ability. We believe discussions are ongoing between Local Government and Ordnance Survey with regard to this issue.

  We hope that our comments are useful for the Committee; if you require any additional or supporting information, please feel free to contact RICS.

  RICS represents over 110,000 members: They operate throughout the world in 16 faculties: Antiques and fine arts, Building surveying, Commercial, Construction, Dispute resolution, Environment, Facilities management, Minerals, Planning and development, Plant and machinery, Project management, Residential, Rural, Valuation, Geomatics, Management consultancy.

Robert Mahoney
Geomatics Chairman
Geomatics Faculty

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