[Talk-GB] UK street addressing

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemed.net
Mon Dec 21 11:14:32 UTC 2020

Robert Whittaker wrote:
> 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.

I quite strongly disagree with this.

My address is x Market Street, Charlbury, Oxfordshire. My addr:city is therefore Charlbury.

This suggestion would see my house tagged with addr:street=Market Street, addr:city=Chipping Norton, because Chipping Norton is the Royal Mail post town.

If a letter is addressed to x Market Street, Chipping Norton, it will end up at x Market Street, Chipping Norton (and yes, there is one). Not x Market Street, Charlbury. You suggest using addr:town to get around this, but that seems to fall foul of your “ignored by most data consumers” point.

A post town isn’t a required part of an address. It’s an occasionally suggested part of an address for customers of Royal Mail, useful only in circumstances where the postcode is omitted. Royal Mail themselves don’t make any reference to it in their own consumer-facing recommendations, they just say “the town” (https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/81/~/how-to-address-your-mail-%28clear-addressing%29).

Royal Mail is one privately-owned delivery business which is heading rapidly towards being a minority provider, and by some measures already is. Other providers are not beholden to PAF and are increasingly looking outside it to their own datasets. Post towns are in any case superfluous for addresses derived directly from PAF (e.g. via an autocomplete mechanism on a website), because you have the postcode in that case. And that’s just the delivery market - addresses serve other purposes, principally around geocoding/routing, for which post towns are irrelevant.

More philosophically, post towns violate the “on the ground” principle. No one here writes their address as Chipping Norton unless PAF autocompletes it for them. No one has Chipping Norton on their letterhead. Trusting some remote third-party database in preference to local knowledge is not what OSM does, and particularly not OSM in the UK.

By all means namespace it (royal_mail:addr:city) or use a bespoke tag for what is a bespoke concept (addr:post_town). But let’s not remove useful information (the actual town/city) in favour of it, and let’s not tag as if post towns are an intrinsic part of UK addresses, because they’re not.

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