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Open Postcodes - My Letter to the FT

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As some of you have have seen, Sue Cameron of the Financial times has written a confused and desperate sounding article about the government’s recent announcement to open up the postcode dataset for public reuse.

As the FT doesn’t have any commenting functionality (my biggest bugbear with newspaper websites), I’ve drafted a letter to the editor. I’ve not sent it yet, so would appreciate your comments! The full text is below:

Sir,

In Sue Cameron’s article ‘Mandy and Gordon - the unravelling’, Ms. Cameron claims Gordon Brown’s opening of the PAF dataset will be a ‘free gift from the taxpayer to major money makers such as Google’.

Yes, large corporations will benefit slightly (very slightly - they won’t have to pay £1,200 per year to use the PostZon dataset), but the real winners will be small, community built websites, such as Planning Alerts, Job Centre Pro Plus, The Straight Choice and countless other sites, which, until recently were powered by a free service - ernestmarples.com, which tied location data to postcodes.

These sites offered services like alerting people to planning applications and jobs in their area for free, providing useful, innovative services for free and taking the load off the stretched public sector.

However, in October, Ernestmarples.com was forced to close by heavy-handed legal action from the Royal Mail, and without a free location-based dataset, these sites could not function and were closed down.

Linking locations to postcodes is an extremely valuable service which should not be in the control of one private organisation, the data was sourced at the public’s expense and should be free for the public to reuse as they see fit. Who knows - it might end up saving the government a few quid too.

Yours Faithfully

Stuart Harrison

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