I am a freelance database engineer presently serving a combination of corporate clients in the scientific and building engineering disciplines, and small public clients supporting social services. My clients increasingly need me to visualise data mashups combining sets of postal addresses, with these government data. However, as a small one-man business I do not have the financial firepower to compete directly with international corporations in subscribing to the prohibitively expensive (indeed extortionate) schemes run by Royal Mail for publishing their data.
I am also concerned that Royal Mail might even cynically use what is left of their dwindling resources to pay an army of lawyers to prosecute people like me for the mere act of creating our own (less accurate) postal-code-district geocoding databases WITHOUT recourse to any of their data. Merely being sued (even with a baseless case) would be too expensive for me.
It is my understanding that these data were originally paid for out of the public purse, though they have since been maintained by Royal Mail to accommodate gradual demographic changes. Royal Mail postal code lat/long and OS grid-reference geocoding data should be public; or else the Government should develop a rival system based on OS grid references, lat/long coordinates or traditional (pre-1974) counties. Royal Mail has made a total mess of county boundaries in the UK for historical applications like genealogy (particularly where this discipline is combined with statistical science), and frankly I feel they should no longer be the custodians of our only viable source of geocoding data, "updating" the system according to their own commercial priorities.
Royal Mail has major financial problems on both strategic and operational levels:
It is dangerous that our only viable postal geocoding data are currently the intellectual property of an organisation in this position and with this long-term outlook. It bodes ill for the future of geocoding. I believe no other advanced Western country is being held to ransom in this way.
All the same we must recognise that our dedicated postmen (who were until recently classed as low-grade civil servants, or, people in the public service) are not to blame for this mess - it was always an inevitable consequence of the information age.
The solution? Either compensate Royal Mail adequately for the renationalisation of their geocoding data (whilst requiring them to use the injection of funds to cover their pension black-hole, and not to pay dividends); or else, scrap the entire decrepit 20th-Century system and replace it with something better in short order (something looking more like the American or German system please.)
After a web search, I just read this article:
I am confused about whether this decision has already been made, or whether this is still at the consultation stage. Please will you make this clearer?