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  • Q1 What is a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN)?

    A Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) is a unique number or ‘code’.

    There is one UPRN for every addressable location in Great Britain. That includes structures like houses and tower blocks, school buildings, farms and barns. Additionally, there is also a UPRN for every physical object that needs to be identified accurately – such as lamp posts, electricity pylons, and railway or motorway bridges.

    From the planning stage, right through to demolition, the UPRN never changes.  This means it is possible for businesses and organisations to use that ‘code’ in matching otherwise disparate datasets. As long as there’s a location, data can be matched accurately and with confidence.

  • Q2 What is a Unique Street Reference Number (USRN)?

    The Unique Street Reference Number (USRN) is a unique number or ‘code’. There is one for every street across Great Britain and, once allocated, a USRN never changes.

    The USRNs for England and Wales exist within the National Street Gazetteer (NSG) and USRNs are also supplied to Ordnance Survey to help in the creation of the OS MasterMap® Highways Network.

    For highways authorities and statutory undertakers, the USRN is a way to ensure works on street can be planned more effectively. For the public, this means less traffic congestion, increased safety and lower levels of disruption to road users.

  • Q3 Who gives out UPRNs and USRNs?

    Unique UPRNs and USRNs in England and Wales are generated by us here at GeoPlace. Batches are sent out to local authorities and Ordnance Survey, which allocate the identifiers to properties and other objects in their area. 

    GeoPlace carries out hundreds of checks to validate the allocation and ensure the high quality of UPRN and USRN data is maintained. Information is passed to Ordnance Survey (OS), which then updates its AddressBase and OS MasterMap Highways Network products.

  • Q4 Why do we need UPRNs and USRNs?

    UPRNs and USRNs are like a National Insurance number for properties, streets and objects. It’s a ‘code’ that lets people pinpoint locations accurately, and with confidence, knowing the UPRN or USRN is unique and always up to date.

    Perhaps most importantly, as long as ‘where’ is a common characteristic, UPRNs can help organisations to make trusted connections between very different datasets. USRNs are key to ensuring works on a street can be planned effectively. For the public, this means less traffic congestion, better safety, and lower levels of disruption to road users.

    This leads to fewer errors, less risk, greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness, all round.

  • Q5 How are UPRNs and USRNs used?

    Here are six quick examples:

    Example 1

    A council’s social care team has a database of vulnerable householders. That database is sensitive – it needs to be protected. A local firm wants to offer a meals on wheels service but it needs to understand where to, precisely, before it can create a quote. A set of UPRNs provides the answer, without revealing people’s personal information.

    Example 2

    Local authorities want to work effectively, planning their streetworks so that minimum disruption is caused to homeowners, businesses, and road users. By using the USRN, many different departments can collaborate on a project with confidence – Highways and Infrastructure, Environmental Services, Property Services, Roads and Facilities Departments – as well as contractors from the private sector, supporting a programme of works.

    Example 3

    Government wants to build many more homes each year, but also protect the all-important greenbelt. A construction company needs to evaluate potential locations before submitting planning applications. UPRNs enable detailed analysis and modelling of risk, routes, local infrastructure and the impact of change on the environment.

    Example 4

    The Census aims to provide a snap-shot showing who lives where in Great Britain. It has a bearing on funding given to local authorities and informs all government policy – shaping our transport, communications, hospitals, schools etc. Complete and accurate addressing makes a tremendous difference. The UPRN makes this possible.

    Example 5

    A utility company wants to use USRNs to improve underground infrastructure maintenance to keep the country supplied with water, gas, electricity and communications.

    Example 6

    Local authorities have lots of different departments. Waste services, social care, street lighting, planning etc. Each department must hold data about the businesses and households it serves – but many services cross-over. Education with bus services, for example. Museums and libraries with roadworks. UPRNs and USRNs can connect all of those datasets accurately, providing a ‘one customer’ view to help improve the services.

  • Q6 Who uses UPRNs and USRNs?

    Because the UPRN is in such a simple format – one identifier, comprising a unique combination of numbers – it can be used by many technologies such as databases, spreadsheets, XML/GML schema and linked data. Groups using the UPRN include local and central government bodies, the emergency services, insurance providers, utility companies, and many independent commercial organisations.

    For example, the data is being used for emergency response by blue light services; by HM Revenue and Customs to collect taxes; by Department of Work and Pensions to pay benefits; by the Environment Agency to produce flood plan, by insurance companies to undertake risk analysis, by financial institutions to support mortgages and lending and by retailers to deliver directly to customers. This makes all kinds of savings possible – money, time, resources, and lives.

    USRNs are also used right across the public sector, and can be used by organisations working in the private sector too. USRNs are a key feature for every local authority, making it possible to identify residents’ whereabouts accurately and provide services efficiently.

  • Q7 How are UPRNs and USRNs evolving?

    Following on from work done by the Geospatial Commission, the UPRN and USRN is now openly available and royalty free for use on Open Government Licence (OGL) terms, in both private and public interests.

    The Government Digital Service (GDS) Open Standards Board has mandated that all central government bodies (including the NHS) must use UPRNs and USRNs as standard for referencing and sharing property and street information.

    GeoPlace is publishing materials and offering support to help those bodies promote and embed the use of UPRNs and USRNs throughout their systems.


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