Freesteel Blog » Geoplace is already a waste of space

Geoplace is already a waste of space

Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 12:29 pm Written by:

Following my discovery of two entirely distinct property government databases with their own systems of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs), due to a “Licensing impasse between Ordnance Survey and National Land & Property Gazatteer”, I was delighted to find out about a new outfit known as Geoplace.

GeoPlace (OC359627) is a public sector limited liability partnership between the Local Government Association and Ordnance Survey. Our vision is to be the recognised centre of excellence for spatial address and street information management in Great Britain.

The hell it does.

Just look at this set of emails between me and the unhelpful help desk on 26 October 2011:


Dear Sir,

The information about your AddressBase products informs me that it is based around a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) which is a 12 digit integer to which all other relational data is referenced.[1]

Meanwhile, I understand that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) operates a database of properties that also issues UPRNs for the purpose of supporting their register of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs).[2]

Can you tell me whether the UPRN of the DCLG’s EPC database bears any relation to your AddressBase UPRN and, if not, whether there are any plans to create a table to cross-reference these referencing systems?

[2] (Page 47, Paragraphs 1.6-8 of Schedule 2)


Dear Julian,

The UPRN of the EPC is not something that GeoPlace is aware of; if it is different or the same.

If you require more information how the EPC UPRN is created or its origin please contact DCLG.

Kind regards,

The Helpdesk Team


Dear Helpdesk Team,

Thank you for your reply deflecting my inquiry as to the uniqueness of the acronym UPRN as used by the government.

I have been in a long correspondence with the DCLG about their databases which have been subjected to private management contracts, consultants, and staff changes over the years and such forth, and their attention is understandably not fully focussed on this issue given all their other activities.

Which is why I have addressed the question to you — “the centre of excellence for spacial address and street information in Great Britain.”[1]

Are you sure that GeoPlace has no awareness of this EPC UPRN database, and that it is not its business to know anything about it?


Julian Todd.


Dear Julian,

GeoPlace manages the NLPG (National Land and Property Gazetteer) and the NSG (National Street Gazetteer). The company is jointly owned by Ordnance Survey and Local Government Association. GeoPlace produces the national address gazetteer database which is available under licence from Ordnance Survey as the product called AddressBase.

I can confirm that GeoPlace has no dealing with the DCLG’s EPC database.

Kind regards,

The Helpdesk Team


Dear Helpdesk Team,

That’s odd. In one of its documents the DCLG mentions how they had trouble with the NLPG.

Footnote 7 of Page 29 of the services specification states:

    Our preferred option would be to use the National Land & Property Gazetteer (NLPG) maintained Unique Property Reference Number which has a number of significant advantages over the alternatives and, in particular, that this would make the Home Condition Report property reference consistent with the Unique Property Reference Number used to carry out searches against Local Authorities and Utility Companies.

    However at the moment there appears to be a licensing impasse between Ordnance Survey and National Land & Property Gazetteer that makes this preferred approach unviable, therefore alternative approaches may be considered.

Are you sure that GeoPlace has absolutely no knowledge or interest in this identifiable and specific management issue relating to the NLPG?

If not, can you direct me to who exactly is in charge of issues to do with government departments gaining access to the dataset which you manage?




Dear Julian,

From the link you have provided it states that were licensing issues so the NLPG was not adopted as part of the address database for the EPC. Thus an alternative solution had to be found; what that solution is we do not know. Also the document has no dates as to when it was published.

Nevertheless, I can confirm that the licensing impasse that is mentioned in footnote 7 of page 29 is now resolved. As of April this year, a new agreement between Ordnance Survey and public sector bodies was signed. This is called the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA). This entitles all public sector bodies to mapping and address data for business use at no charge from OS.

It may be now that with this new agreement DCLG can take NLPG or AddressBase data for their EPC.

Ordnance Survey is the main point of contact who deal with our government customers. They may be able to provide more information on what address data DCLG take and if they have taken AddressBase.

You can contact OS via email on or call 08453 757 595.

I have passed your query on to our colleagues at the LGA who may also have some more information on the topic of EPC.

Kind regards,

The Helpdesk Team


Dear Helpdesk team,

Thank you for your reply.

The document I linked was disclosed as Annex B4 of the following FOI response:
I believe it was originally released to the bidding contractors in May 2006.

The solution they found — as indicated in the footnote and in the subsequent contract — was to entirely re-implement their own property database with all its attendant costs for errors and maintenance.

Clearly this says a lot about the way these information assets were being managed back in 2006. It would be a sign that things were actually changing if there was some agency that saw the advantages of migrating these databases together, and took action.

Can you tell me whether GeoPlace sees itself as this agency?


There was no reply, of course, because they don’t give a damn.

The actual remit of Geoplace and its partner organizations is without doubt to continue the dysfunctional business as usual of Whitehall, making money out of gratuitous inefficiency and corporate control of all the key public information systems.

A free, reusable, reliable coordinated addressing system that was properly maintained could produce vast improvements to efficiency across the economy, especially for small scale businesses that cannot afford IT infrastructure and could potentially keep track of all their customers on the back of one smart-phone. Imagine trying to run a car-parking or car repair business without the existence of license plate numbers which everyone could see and refer to.

It’s not just about home deliveries. The inter-business movement and procurement of goods and services could be totally revolutionized on the back of a common high-quality database of places that was maintained on the basis of it being a common good. Just like motorways and traffic lights. We all use each street lamp a little bit, as background infrastructure, and they are maintained predictably because they improve life generally in a way that makes it impossible to revenue generate.

Information infrastructure should be no different. Yet here we see the data given to ExperianQAS for setting a pricing policy that is well outside affordability to anyone except the corporations. So only the corporations will get their internal systems improved while the rest of us get screwed.

Here is a slide from one of their recent “webinars” laying it out.

Update: Mr Help desk team got back to me after noticing I had posted the conversation up on the blog to explain that the remit of GeoPlace is only about curating this data set. They have nothing whatsoever to do with licensing or pricing. That, of course, is wholly the business of the Ordnance Survey, the primary constituent partner of GeoPlace. This is the same Ordnance Survey that justifies its policy on the word of an “Internationally recognised expert” whom they refused to disclose, probably because they either made him up, or he is not “internationally recognized”.

Anyways, right now they ought to be far too busy working on their Everything Happens Somewhere Exhibition 2011 at:

Thursday 3 November 2011
The Albert Hall, North Circus Street, Nottingham NG1 5AA, UPRN 200001402170, TOID 1000022976803

Note the presence of the 12 digit UPRN for the location. I approve. They probably made a big design blunder defining it as an integer rather than a string, but that’s for another rant.


  • 1. Richard replies at 31st July 2018, 3:25 pm :

    This blog is out of date.

    It seems that Julian does not have a understanding of the difference between a data provider and a data consumer. Geoplace provide the addressing data. They cannot know how the 1000’s of data users use the data. It is not within their remit to know what field names the users have chosen and what they would like to use them for. There are many systems that use the field name UPRN and not always to reference or link to the NLPG UPRN.

    In 2006 addressing in the UK was a mess, in 2011 Geoplace was making strides to unifying the many datasets. Its now 2018 and this blog is so out of date it could be used as a blue print for Stonehenge.

    Maybe data should not be kept online forever.

    Richard: LLPG Custodian

  • 2. Julian replies at 15th August 2018, 1:52 pm :

    Perhaps you’d be more interested in this later post, where I found a Parliamentary Select Committee expressing horror that the address register created for the census was going to have to be deleted due to various IP interests of institutions that were all part of the same national government!

    I might not know the difference between a data whatever-this-and-that-thing, but I can recognize an institutional culture that refers to “remits” which they’ll just as happily interpret antagonistically to the ultimate purpose, and use an excuse for not caring about things which they should care about — as well as an instinctive habit that leads them always to claim that the system is working perfectly consistently and productively at all times no matter what the evidence.

    Now I am sure we will get there in the end to something operational, after 20 years of going down dead ends, millions of pounds wasted, and thousands of excessive hours of technical work squandered which could have been used on better things, like finding a cure to cancer.

    But I really don’t think going back and saying that this history didn’t happen and any records of it are out of date and should be deleted is going to help, when instead you should be explaining exactly what was stopping the improved situation of 2018 from already being in place in 2008 — and whether there is something going on now that means it’s not as good as it will be in 2028.

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