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August 21, 2007

Make change-makers pay to record change

There is a growing body of opinion that public information, already paid for out of general taxation, ought not to be commodified. See http://www.freeourdata.org.uk/
At the very least, some of the cost of maintaining currency of core datasets, such as base mapping, ought to be picked up by those who create the changes which need to be recorded for the public good. If nothing in the world ever changed, it would be a lot cheaper to keep maps up-to-date!

An opportunity recently arose to make this point, in the Government's consultation on changes to the way in which planning applications are paid for through fees charged by planning authorities. Anyone wanting to develop their land (or indeed anyone else's land) has to pay up-front a fee that is supposed to cover the cost incurred by local planners in processing their application.

In my research looking at barriers to value mapping UK, I have concluded that a major barrier is the business model that UK has adopted for certain key public agencies such as Ordnance Survey, plus the lack of 'joined up' thinking generally about the importance of monitoring changes in the built environment. I therefore took it upon myself to suggest that an OS Supplement to planning fees might go some way to reducing the level of payments that map data users now have to pay OS.

My full submission to Communities and Local Government can be downloaded here. I would welcome comment on the idea, as I hope there will be further discussion in the near future on this matter. Government has promised to report to Parliament before the next Budget on the economic implications of alternative business models for OS and other trading funds.

Posted by Tony Vickers at August 21, 2007 1:47 PM

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