Benefits of National Address Data

Description & Request Overview

  • The most frequent class of data requests received via ODUG’s request form on is related to address data. In addition requests for a single national address register have been consistently made by three House of Commons Committees, ONS and many respondents to government consultations.
  • At present there isn’t a single register, so requests are either for the NLPG (National Land and Property Gazetteer) now known as the National Address Gazetteer and marketed by GeoPlace LLP (a 50:50 joint venture of the LGA and Ordnance Survey under the trade name AddressBase. or for Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF)

Data Release Rationale

  • A National Address register is probably the best single example of core reference data. This is data which has, or should have, a single correct version and is used to reference or link a wide range of other data sets. It is often stated that an address is attached to some 80% of records held by local and central government or private sector organizations. 
  • The corollary to our data request for a National Address Register is that its component parts should be treated as commercial assets by GeoPlace LLP and Royal Mail Ltd, priced at what the bodies regard that the market will bear and that the revenue should be used to cross-subsidize other loss making activities or to grow the production marketing and licensing parts of those organizations.

Please identify what opportunities would be available with an open national address register and which opportunities are not available under the current system

Target User Description – Community Fit

  • Every government department, commercial enterprise and charity or social enterprise can take advantage of, and secure economies by access to, or use of, the National Address Register.
  • Every motorist and every citizen needs to know the correct address or the location of an address almost every day.
  • The emergency and security services are dependent on correct addressing for most of their activities.
  • The financial services sector needs correct addressing as a critical part of verifying the identity of individuals and organizations.
  • Many SMEs and larger companies will be able to build value added services on the back of an Open National Address Register. We believe, on the basis of the PAF Advisory Board’s paper on the economic value of PAF that these will grow the economy significantly and that that growth will generate government revenues orders of magnitude greater than the current modest revenue from address data

Please identify further user groups, businesses, sectors and organizations who would benefit from this release

Please identify where further case studies or quantifiable evidence to support the release of this dataset

Barriers for Release

  • The decision to fund Ordnance Survey entirely out of data trading (now partially reversed through the Public Sector Mapping Agreement) made OS regard Address data as having a high capacity to generate revenue. 
  • Similarly when Parliament granted Royal Mail Ltd “ownership of the Postcode Address File for the time being”, commercial exploitation of PAF became a prime motivation. Royal Mail revenues from PAF have grown at least 8 fold since 1986 while it is not clear that costs should have grown similarly.
  • An open National Address Register which is sustainably funded, potentially largely from land registration, planning and naming and numbering surcharges (which would be very modest compared to the full charge) would ensure that those who cause addresses to be allocated or changed would pay for the maintenance of the National Address Register, not those who need to use or verify addresses.
  • Internet addressing works on this basis so that access to current databases of internet addresses is free, while registering those addresses has a modest charge. In an information based economy geographical/postal addressing is as critical as internet addressing and should not be subject to the friction, costs and inefficiencies that the current market in address data generates.

Please identify further barriers to releasing addressing data as open?


  • We believe that address data generated out of an already funded Public Task should be released under the OGL and that the management of a central maintenance and dissemination hub should be a fee for service activity for which a contract would be awarded on a best value basis. 
  • We do not believe that there should be any payment for use or reuse of any data from the National Address Register which will generate significant savings in its operation as licensing, invoicing marketing and license compliance activities will no longer be necessary
  • We believe that the decision on the future of an open National Address Register is the single most important measure of the Government’s commitment to an effective National Information Framework and to the role of open data in growing the economy and enhancing national economic efficiency


Benefits of National Address Data

Target User Group

You forgot LOCAL GOVERNMENT...the people who create the addresses in the first instance. Theory is that local government is moving to 'Digital Era Governance' away from the 1980's and 1990's philosophy of 'New Public Management. During the last 10 years, most local gov organisations have been slimming down and transforming and doing 'e-gov' and rationalising etc. Now on top of that we have austerity measures to deal with and are taking big hits in terms of government expenditure cuts. To me this presents an opportunity to see how IT can be used to deliver services differently and more innovatively. This does not mean applying IT to old business services (basically trying to do Digital Era Governance on top of a New Public Management base) but rather developing new digital based services. To do this you need software components which are reusable, interoperable and standards based. A national address dataset / gazetteer should be one such reusable, interoperable component, designed for Digital Era Governance. Addresses are NOT there for Royal Mail's pleasure or profit or indeed the Ordnance Survey's. If Government wants 'Digital by Default', Ministers will have to get PAF out of the 'too hard to do' tray and make some decisions. To my mind, failure to sort the licensing regime is undermining the Governments top results relating to things like GDS etc.

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Data Release Rational

Some local gov authorities may not be around shortly as they become less financially viable as a small administrative unit. Other Authorities such as two tier government are now attempting partnership working, new service delivery methods etc. To support these visions we need unrestricted access to a national, definitive set of addresses (without having to pay for them...since we create them!!). The PAF licensing regime currently presents a significant barrier to local government motivations to become more 'digital' and to improve focus it's services around the citizen instead of around internal departments. The old 'out of area' licensing problem (basically we have to pay extra if we want to use addresses outside of our administrative area) must disappear so we can get on joining up local gov services.

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Oxera report

Google recently commission Oxera to report on the economic benefits of the geo services industry. The announcement by Google (including link to the full report at the bottom of their blog post) can be found at:

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Danish experience with address data since 2002

Denmark's address data has been available free of charge for re-use since 2002.  Mid 2010 a report was published on the social and economic impact of that data release over the period of 2005-2009. See

From the report:

"The conclusion of the study is that the direct financial benefits from the agreement for society in the period 2005-2009 amount to around EUR 62 million (~DKK 471 million). Until 2009 the total costs of the agreement has been around EUR 2 million. In 2010 it is estimated that social benefits from the agreement will be about EUR 14 million, while costs will total about  EUR 0.2 million. Around 30% of the benefits will be in the public sector and around 70% will be in the private sector. "

The experience made with the release of Danish address data is now being applied in Denmark to all core data sets (resulting in the release of geodata and company register last month, abolishing charging schemes). This is similar to steps the Dutch government is taking, with last year's release of all address and building data, as well other core data sets (geo, road system, license plates/vehicle info and others). Both Denmark (see link to roadmap below) and the Netherlands (by end of 2014) are on a track to release all core data sets free of charge to the public.

See the Danish release roadmap, which includes the financial rationale for both internal savings and external benefits of releasing core datasets:

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