[Talk-GB] Tagging post towns and other addressing issues in the UK

Chris Hill osm at raggedred.net
Mon Jan 28 22:18:19 UTC 2019

On 28/01/2019 21:56, Colin Smale wrote:
> On 2019-01-28 22:22, Chris Hill wrote:
>> Post town do not exist, and never have. They are a fiction invented 
>> by Royal Mail for their own internal use which they persuaded the 
>> public into using for the sole benefit of Royal Mail.
> ...and for the benefit of anyone posting a letter and expecting it to 
> get delivered properly...
RM used to use postal towns when post was sorted by hand, but as soon as 
mechanised sorting based on postcodes took over postal towns were just a 
legacy that no one needed any more. In 1976 I posted a batch of 
postcodes from my holiday in Norway. As an experiment I addressed one to 
my parents as Number 10, HU14 3BA, UK. It arrived on the same day as all 
the others because it had a postcode on it. So post towns were beginning 
to be obsolete in 1976.
> In the UK places (as opposed to admin areas) don't have well-defined 
> borders unfortunately. If you live in the "no-mans land" between two 
> villages there is in many cases no way of determining if you are in 
> Village A or Village B.
Why does a postal town help with this? The postcode is much more precise 
than a generalised post town that will cover a wide area - that was the 
point of a post town.
>> Addresses are not maintained by RM, local authorities are responsible 
>> for addresses (which obviously don't include postal towns), except 
>> for the postcode. Most LAs have a system to request a new postcode 
>> from RM when a planning application gets approved that will need a 
>> new postcode.
> The LA is certainly responsible for house names/numbers and street 
> names. Wouldn't all the rest (not just the post town) be down to RM?
No the process is that RM only supply the postcode.
>> I don't see what purpose adding post towns to OSM would serve. The 
>> ONLY people who ever used it were Royal Mail as they were the only 
>> organisation to have a sorting office there. I'm sure RM don't need 
>> OSM to make deliveries, so who would we be benefiting by including 
>> this? To anyone else looking for an address the postal town is just 
>> confusing.
> Are you saying is that there is no point in adding addresses to OSM? 
> Addresses are also useful for the senders of letters, or users of 
> navigation systems, so I think that might be a little controversial.
Of course not. Addresses are a fine idea, but real addresses that 
actually exist on the ground, not some mythical, out-of-date idea used 
by one organisation in the past.
> This document gives loads of examples to aid the interpretation of PAF 
> fields
> https://www.royalmail.com/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/programmers_guide_edition_7_v5.pdf
The RM PAF is not the definitive address list for the UK, it is just the 
way RM sees it. It is widely used because there is no other published 
list of addresses. If we ever see a proper national address list 
compiled from the UPRN that local authorities maintain it will not 
include any field introduced by a company such as post town. OSM can 
help here by not confusing addresses with RM's muddled postal addresses.

Chris Hill (chillly)

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