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So what are these UPRNs and USRNs that everyone is talking about?

Blog posted by: Gayle Gander, Head of Marketing at GeoPlace, 02 April 2020.

Geospatial data, which is data linked to location, underpins Great Britain’s public services such as emergency planning, building our homes, protecting our environment, supporting our transport and helping our security services to keep us safe. Today, the Geospatial Commission has announced that it is increasing its location data offer to the public sector across England, Scotland and Wales, starting from 1 April 2020.

Any public sector organisation, ranging from health and emergency services, town, parish, and community councils through to central government departments can sign up via Ordnance Survey to access and use the data, free at the point of use. Known as the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA), it will be delivered by the national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey. Organisations that are already a member of the previous Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) automatically becomes a member of the new agreement unless they opt out.

Alongside this announcement, Government has also made provision for UPRNs and USRNs to be made available under Open Government Licence from 1st July 2020. At GeoPlace we wanted to outline what UPRNs and USRNs are, and why this change is welcomed.

About UPRNs

A Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) is the unique identifier for every addressable location in Great Britain.

An addressable location may be any kind of building, or it may be an object that might not have a ‘normal’ address – such as a bus station or an electricity substation. UPRNs provide every property or object with a unique identifier throughout its lifecycle, from planning through to demolition.  In the same way individual people have National Insurance numbers, these codes are used to identify unique physical locations in Great Britain.

Local authorities use them to identify individual properties and streets.  Ordnance Survey uses them to identify things that don’t have a ‘normal’ address on a map – like a pond, electricity substation or a communications mast.

Every UPRN is different. Each one is linked to the same object for the whole of that object’s life. From the planning stage, of a house for example, right through to demolition and archive. UPRNs can also be allocated a ‘sub property’ level. So, a block of flats will have lots of UPRNs all stacked up, one on top of the other. This makes the UPRN incredibly useful to the emergency services, and to all kinds of companies like energy providers and insurers who need to identify properties at a very granular level.

UPRNs have been around a while. They were first utilised by local authorities more than two decades ago. Nowadays, UPRNs are allocated by local authorities and by Ordnance Survey from a range provided by GeoPlace. Local authorities have the statutory permission to name and number every street and building in Great Britain and also allocate UPRNs to other objects. Ordnance Survey identifies features in the landscape that might not have a ‘normal’ address, and includes them in its AddressBase® products.

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