[Talk-GB] UK street addressing

Robert Whittaker (OSM lists) robert.whittaker+osm at gmail.com
Mon Dec 21 09:27:40 UTC 2020

Like it or not, in the UK addresses are defined by Royal Mail. They're
introduced the concept of a "postal town", and this is one of the few
common elements that each address must always have. Once you accept
that the Post Town is intended to be a nearby significant place (to
help with delivery routing and identifying the rough location of the
addressed property) rather than being a place that the address is
"in", then it's really no more of a fiction than the postcode. (The
village I grew up in had a GL postcode, despite it being in
Worcestershire. I've currently got an IP postcode, despite being in
Norfolk and closer to Norwich (NR) than Ipswich.)

On the basis that it's a required part of each address, I would
recommend that we do store the post town in OSM addresses. There are
significant advantages to storing it in a consistent way, and the best
existing tag to do this would be addr:city. (We wouldn't want to
invent a new tag (e.g. addr:posttown), since as a UK-only term that
will simply be ignored by most international data consumers.

We then have a possible hierarchy of named localities between the
street and the post town to record as part of the address. I would
suggest using appropriate values from the set {addr:hamlet,
addr:village, addr:town, addr:suburb}. (I don't see any other
alternatives to this.) Most of these key names already have a
reasonable number of uses in OSM (addr:town is the lowest, but that
still has 59k uses), so it seems that others are doing this too.

Regarding properties (e.g. on named terraces or sub-streets), where
there are two street names (Thoroughfare and Dependent Throughourfare
in Rail Mail terminology) then we need a second key to store the other
street name under. Certainly if there is an addr:housenumber or
addr:housename, I think we need to use addr:street for the
street/terrace name on which that name or number applies. Otherwise,
software that's unaware of the second key name will think it's house
number n on the main street not the sub-street. There are already
about 3.5k uses of addr:parentstreet in OSM, so I'd recommend using
that for the main street, and addr:street for the terrace or
sub-street name. If any data-users aren't aware of addr:parentstreet
it's not a major issue, since it will still pick up the correct
terrace/sub-street name, and the locality, which will probably be
enough to use as an address.

I would strongly argue against using addr2 in connection with
sub-streets, as it's not standardised, and is likely to not be picked
up by any software. There's an abondoned proposal at
https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Proposed_features/addr2 , but that
was for the case of a single property on a street corner having two
formal addresses, one on each street, not for the case of two streets
in a hierarchy.


On Sun, 20 Dec 2020 at 12:47, Dave Abbott <Dave.Abbott at pandaemonia.org> wrote:
> I am trying to make sure I tag addresses correctly. I am currently
> trying to understand how to map in my area.
> The postal addresses are like:
> 99 Postal Street
> Smalltown
> Largertown
> West Yorks XY9 7GY
> Smalltown is geographically separate to Largertown, which however is the
> Postal Town. Omitting Smalltown from the address is probably correct
> postally-speaking, but local residents would object as Smalltown is seen
> as completely separate to other places under the same Postal Town.
> Currently tagging as -
> addr:housenumber=99
> addr:street=Postal Street
> addr:city=Smalltown, Largertown
> But I am pretty sure this is wrong.
> There is a page at
> https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/User:Rjw62/UK_Address_Mapping which
> mentions "suggested tags" but there is no evidence that this is in use.
> If correct I would be tagging as -
> addr:housenumber=99
> addr:street=Postal Street
> addr:town=Smalltown
> addr:city=Largertown
> Hoping someone can advise me as to the correct way to tag for the UK...
> Dave Abbott  (OSM user DaveyPorcy)
> _______________________________________________
> Talk-GB mailing list
> Talk-GB at openstreetmap.org
> https://lists.openstreetmap.org/listinfo/talk-gb

Robert Whittaker

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