Memorandum by Ramblers' Association (OS
1. The Ramblers' Association (RA) is a voluntary
organisation and registered charity founded in 1935. We have over
208,000 supporters consisting of more than 131,000 individual
members and 77,000 members of affiliated clubs and societies.
Our four core aims are to promote walking, to protect public rights
of way, to campaign for access to open country and to defend the
beauty of the countryside.
2. The RA takes a close interest in the
workings of the Ordnance Survey (OS) as well as its products and
the OS recognises that the RA is a key stakeholder in its work.
We firmly believe that OS should remain in the public realm, providing
a national mapping service as recognised by the National Interest
Mapping Services Agreement (NIMSA). We commented in detail earlier
this year to the Government's quinquennial review of the OS but
have yet to hear the findings of that review.
3. Nationally, the RA liaises with OS on
a range of issues, for example with feedback on new OS products
such as the new Explorer series of maps, copyright issues, sponsorship
and partnership deals, and publicity and reviews of new OS products
in our magazine and yearbook. Locally, our volunteers have over
the years provided, at the request of OS, a free proofreading
and checking service of rights of way on draft maps as new OS
maps are rolled-out. Our members are active users of OS products,
particularly the excellent Outdoor Leisure and Explorer series
4. The RA has no real experience of the
current OS pricing model's effect on planning appeals or the cost
of updating and maintaining databases. However we have the following
brief comments on the other matters of interest to the committee.
5. The RA's Welsh office and Central office
both hold Business Use licences which we believe to be value for
money and a welcome innovation. The only drawback is that we have
found the terms to be rather vague and when seeking clarification
from OS about our precise requirements (eg whether our members
are covered when engaged in the new access land mapping fieldwork
for the Countryside Agency) we have been given differing replies
from the copyright section. It seems paramount that this issue
is clarified and the OS, as a government agency working for the
national interest, seeks to assist both the Countryside Agency
and voluntary bodies engaged in this vital national mapping work.
6. Our Central office also has a free licence
which allows our magazine to reproduce limited extracts of OS
copyright material. We believe this is a new arrangement and it
is very welcome.
7. We have had little direct experience
in producing guide books but our Areas and Groups, who do produce
many guide books and pamphlets on local walks, rarely comment
on the licence price and royalty charges, which indicates that
the present fees are not prohibitive. However, we do believe that
the prices should be kept at their present levels so as not to
discourage production of guide books.
8. In conclusion, we find that the licensing
system is reasonable value for money for the activities we undertake.
Our understanding is that past licence fees were prohibitively
expensive to small organisationsbe they businesses or non-profit
making bodies, and resulted in a greater amount of illegal copying.
If there is any suggestion of increasing the licence fees then
we would suggest that there should be a low cost band or separate
licence for charitable organisations rather than one Business
9. The RA understands that the OS must be
commercially competitive and developing innovative new technology
is fundamental to attracting business. However we are concerned
that the map buying public may be bearing some of the costs for
digital OS products primarily geared towards business. For instance
the price of the Explorer and Outdoor Leisure series of maps recently
rose steeply (the increase in Explorer map prices was 22 per cent).
We believe that these products still give good value for money
but the OS must be wary of further excessive increases. If this
happens then the problem of illegal copying will increase and
turnover will fall as individuals and organisations replace their
maps less frequently or turn to competitors. The RA understands
that providing the national coverage of mapping in the form of
paper products receives partial funding from NIMSA. This should
continue and the next settlement should be increased if OS are
having difficulty engaging in uncommercial mapping activities.
10. The cost of larger scale paper products
and new digital mapping technology is well out of reach to the
RA, similar organisations and members of the public at the moment.
Our volunteers find the 1:10,000 series of particular use in their
work on rights of way and access as this is the scale commonly
used by local authorities in preparing definitive maps of public
rights of way. The OS should recognise that there is a market
for these forms of mapping from organisations such as the RA and
a reasonable and realistic price band for access to these products
would provide a new stream of income for the OS.