Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Open Spaces Society (OS 15)


  1.  The Open Spaces Society, founded in 1865, is Britain's oldest national conservation body. A registered charity, we campaign to create and conserve common land, village greens, open spaces and rights of public access, in town and country, in England and Wales.


  2.  The OSS is a statutory consultee for a number of legal procedures affecting rights of way and it is also consulted by DEFRA, Welsh Assembly and local authorities on matters affecting commons and town and village greens. We hope the sub-committee will accept that the following comments do not relate solely to urban affairs.

  3.  We greatly value the work of the Ordnance Survey (OS) and fully accept that they need an adequate financial return (in the absence of major government subsidy for all purposes) if their products are to be kept up-to-date and published to the high standard that is traditional with and expected from them.

  4.  The most useful OS products to the OSS, sharing with general public use, are the Explorer and Outdoor Leisure 1:25,000 series showing field boundaries and rights of way and, in the future, all types of access land.

  5.  However, our work includes:

    —  checking accuracy of existing depictions;

    —  dealing with unlawful obstructions;

    —  considering proposals for diversion or extinguishment of rights of way;

    —  considering problems and proposals in relation to commons, town and village greens and other open spaces in town and countryside;

    —  examining access land proposals;

    —  considering planning applications and development plan amendments affecting any of the above;

    —  preparation for public inquiries, legal proceedings and private legislation petitions and select committee hearings.

  These often require the use of larger scale maps—1:10,000 or, particularly (but not only) in urban areas, 1:2,500 or 1:1,250, which may be produced direct by OS or derived from them by others but still involving OS copyright.

  6.  Our work may be carried out in the field, at home or in public libraries by, mainly, voluntary local representatives and others who may have to consult our own executive committee, other voluntary bodies, local authorities, government departments and agencies, or non-government organisations. They may also wish to negotiate amendments with landowners and occupiers. All this can require copying for the distribution of maps to many people. These copies are rarely suitable for general use and are not likely to cause OS any loss of legitimately expected income.

  7.  OSS is not licensed by OS to reproduce these maps but in practice the society itself seldom needs to do so. If they are required for actual parliamentary or legal proceedings or at a public inquiry, they are exempt from copyright in any case. The problems mainly arise when our individual helpers all over the country need to carry out all the preliminary or informal work which is absolutely necessary if OSS is to be effective in its duties. It is not merely the possible requirement to pay royalties. We believe that OS might be generous enough to waive these in many cases if it were possible to ask them. But, if our helpers wish to arrange for copies of maps themselves as soon as they are required, a full price (including royalty) may have to be paid to retailers or copy shops, or local authorities (including their public libraries) may refuse to allow copying because it would breach the terms of their own licence. If our helpers have their own copying machine or can use the internet, they may find themselves breaking the law to do their work properly.

  8.  We consider that it should be possible for voluntary bodies to carry out their functions in the public interest without having to pay royalties for the maps used or copied and without having to get specific permission on each occasion. But we should be happy to ensure that all maps produced for this purpose are endorsed with an acknowledgement of the Crown's and OS's copyright. This could be done by the distribution to volunteers of a rubber stamp containing the appropriate words.


  9.  The Countryside Agency has recently published draft maps of access land, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Volunteers and members of the public need to have ready access to these in order to check them in the limited, three-month, period allowed. But copyright provisions do not allow them to photocopy the maps and thus they are put to considerable expense having to buy them from the Countryside Agency. The alternative is to download them from the website but these maps are less accurate and in any case the majority of people do not have access to the internet.

  10.  The further problem is that large-scale maps under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act are not available and yet in some cases these are essential in order to check the boundaries properly.


  11.  The OS should recognise the value of guide books as an advertisement for the OS. The use of OS maps in walking books can encourage people then to go and purchase more OS maps. So in our view there should be no licence fee due for maps in guide books, leaflets and similar products up to an areas of say A6 size.


  12.  People who are unfamiliar with access to the countryside benefit greatly from being able to use Ordnance Survey maps (for instance Outdoor Leisure maps) for educational purposes. We have evidence that 24 Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure maps were purchased by first-time buyers following a course run by one of our committee members.

  13.  There should be no charge or payment due to the Ordnance Survey for A4 size copies of maps at any scale made for any educational purpose, when they are used entirely for training, whether such courses are formal or informal, provided that such courses are run as an advertised event.


  14.  We have heard a rumour that the OS wishes to phase out Outdoor Leisure maps and replace them by Explorer maps. We very strongly oppose this. Outdoor Leisure maps, which cover particularly popular or special areas, are much valued by our members and the wider public. They often do not cover such a large area as an Explorer map but are particularly convenient when visiting an area on holiday. We trust the OS will maintain the Outdoor Leisure series.

  15.  We should be pleased to give oral evidence and to show examples of map copies that have been utilised for our work, and to expand on any of the points made in this submission.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 24 June 2002