What is a Unique Street Reference Number (USRN)? A Guide for Landlords
Here we will look at what USRNs or Unique Street Reference Numbers are and what they can be used for.
An Introduction to USRNs
Conventional street addresses have been around for hundreds of years and have proved perfectly good for most uses. But conventional street addresses have their drawbacks. There are many streets, even in the same town, with similar or even the same names. Conventional street addresses can also be misspelt or misunderstood. They have unconventional and often unusual formats, which the digital world finds difficult to handle.
Consequences of using conventional street addresses include misdirected or lost parcels, late deliveries of goods and difficulties in coordinating road works and utility works.
Postcodes can be of some use in identifying streets but postcodes do not provide a complete solution.
Today we live in a world that is full of data and is increasingly data-driven. Effective use of data can make things much more efficient. USRNs are a way of standardising and also digitising street address data to make it more efficient.
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What a Unique Street Reference Number is
In simple terms, a USRN or Unique Street Reference Number is a kind of identifier and one that is used specifically for rights of way. A USRN is a unique numeric identifier for every street in Great Britain. A USRN is also a kind of geocode.
USRNs can be attached not just to streets but to lanes, tracks, footpaths, cycle paths and every similar kind of route.
USRNs consist of eight digits. There are around 1.4 million USRNs in England and Wales alone. Once attached to a street the USRN never changes and only ever relates to that street.
USRNs are a granular form of data. They allow the collection and use of data to a highly detailed level. USRNs also make it possible to check, correct and remove errors and inaccuracies from data.
USRNs allow different users to collate, validate, share and collaborate using data from different databases all based on a single common identifier. Every organisation that uses them can be sure they are talking about the same street.
Where Do USRNs Come From?
The Government has said that official systems, services and applications that store or publish data sets containing property and street information must use the USRN and UPRN (see next) identifiers.
The official record of USRNs is contained within the National Street Gazetteer or NSG and the OS MasterMap Highways Network. The data is collected and validated by the GeoPlace organisation. It is assembled from the street data compiled by the 174 local authorities in England and Wales who are legally required to name streets.
USRNs are compiled for Scotland by the Improvement Service and for Northern Ireland by the Department for Infrastructure.
USRN and UPRN – How They Differ
USRNs have a relationship with UPRNs but they are not the same. A UPRN is a Unique Property Reference Number.
A UPRN or Unique Property Reference Number is an identifier that is used specifically for a property. A UPRN is a unique numeric identifier for every individual address in Great Britain.
UPRNs are attached to a single piece of property. They can be attached to houses and commercial buildings and any other kind of property. They can be attached to a property which does not have a conventional street address as well as that which does.
A UPRN can be up to 12 digits in length.
What the USRN Can Be Used For
The scope for using a system which can accurately collect and collate data related to individual streets by way of a USRN is huge. The practical benefits of a USRN are that all aspects of dealing with and working with rights of way should be faster, cheaper, more efficient and more accurate.
Perhaps the main use of USRNs is by local highway authorities and the companies and contractors who work with them including statutory undertakers. USRNs are used by all 174 local highway authorities, the Welsh Government, National Highways and Transport for London (TfL).
It’s estimated that USRNs are used by around 500 contractors and utility suppliers to coordinate over 3 million roadworks in England and Wales. The data is used in the Department for Transport’s Street Manager service to plan, manage and record these works.
USRNs are used by these organisations to identify streets accurately, to apply for and process permissions, to keep records of work required, ordered, in progress and completed and of the costs involved.
The use of USRNs can extend beyond just road maintenance, repairs and utility works, however. It can be used in connection with issues such as planning bus services, parking regulation, operating active travel networks and planning services. The emergency services are also able to use USRNs.
The USRN also has statistical use. Socio-economic data and statistics on for example crime or the environment can make use of USRNs.
The USRN also has uses in the property industry and in proptech. USRNs can be used to accurately identify streets in property platforms and apps.
The UPRN and USRN identifiers, along with their associated grid references, are available for anyone to use under the Open Government Licence or OGL.
How To Find a Unique Street Reference Number
If you wish to find the USRN for a street or find a street from a USRN and locate it on a map then one way to do this is using FindMyStreet.
The FindMyStreet data is created and maintained by local authorities and collected and managed centrally by GeoPlace.
FindMyStreet covers every street in England and Wales. It will tell you where a street is, what its official name is, whether open or under construction, whether classified or not, and who is responsible for maintaining that street including which local authority if applicable.
FindMyStreet is for personal, non-commercial use. You can perform up to 30 searches every day for free. Commercial products are available for commercial users and for higher search volumes.