Map county errors


I’m new to the forum so I’m not sure if this is the correct place to report possible errors.

I use openstreetmap maps in Mapfactor Navigator. It shows local places as being in “Central Bedfordshire” but this isn’t a county, it’s not a postal address or place name, it’s just the name of the council authority.

The county should be Bedfordshire.

Confusing for the locals but more confusing for visitors.

I am assuming these are coming from osm but I have also seen this same address error in searches on retail websites so the error might be coming from elsewhere.

Hmm, there is an area officially called “Central Bedfordshire”

And there seems to be an old boundary

If Mapfactor Navigator is showing that as a “county” then that is an error in Mapfactor Navigator. Lots of places in England and Wales don’t have a traditional county in the administrative hierarchy any more. To see that, try searching Nominatim for “Shefford” and then clicking “details”. Scroll down, and you can see the administrative hierarchy. It would be possible for someone to create a different way of searching that should traditional counties instead of modern admin areas, but I don’t know of anyone who has done that.

Neither approach is wrong, but I’d suggest that using current admin areas is more useful in 2022 than historical counties.

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I couldn’t disagree more these council areas are utterly meaningless, you may as well use NHS areas or Tesco ones.

The address in Britain is always


Postal addresses haven’t included counties for many years now.


The PO is not the final arbiter of addresses, that would be the Boundaries Commission or the people that live there.

Furthermore it still doesn’t explain why a political administrative name is being added to the address when there is a perfectly good country name with well established historic borders.

As mentioned earlier, that’s something that you’d need to take up with the people who created the app. OSM contains both sets of data, so if an app creator wanted to use pre-1974 traditional counties in addresses in the UK, they could.

Sure, but that’s a question you need to address to the person that wrote the application you are using - all the different boundaries are in OpenStreetMap and it’s up to them how them use them to build an address.

We have the traditional county and the ceremonial county for Bedfordshire and if there was a current administrative one then we would have that as well.

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I can only answer for Nominatim here but I suspect it is involved somewhere under the hood anyways.

Political administrative boundaries are used because the UK community has up to now failed to document the hopeless meddle of boundary relations used in the UK. It is close to impossible to figure out which ones have meaning and which one are just historical or an administrative paper tiger. When I’ve asked the UK community in the past, the answer was always something along the line of: it’s historically complicated.

So, if you are aware of a consistent set of OSM relations of “well established historic borders” everybody in the UK would expect to see in the location description in search results, I’d be delighted to fix the search engine.


You’ve probably seen this before, but linking just in case:

I think @scubascooby is suggesting that one should use Ceremonial County (boundary=ceremonial) for place names.

I think I tend to agree. For example, the town of Blackpool has its own Unitary Authority but is considered “in” the county of Lancashire.

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The problem, from @lonvia’s point of view is that we don’t have a boundary=ceremonial relation for every county - for example there isn’t one for Hertfordshire because it would be the same as the current administrative boundary…

I wouldn’t have thought that was too much of an issue. If there isn’t a boundary=ceremonial then fall back to boundary=administrative + admin_level=6 .

Not really sure on this, whilst I live in Shropshire. I work in Telford and nobody considers it in Shropshire anymore, even though it is in the ceremonial county


So where would people want to show for Tilbrook (Node: ‪Tilbrook‬ (‪29624520‬) | OpenStreetMap)?

Apparently in the traditional/historic county of Bedfordshire and the ceremonial county of Cambridgeshire (assuming OSM boundaries are correct). Also in the administrative non metropolitan county of Cambridgeshire.

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Yep, it’s interesting. The crux is what level of detail app developers should use. Neither option are wrong.

I think Cambridgeshire is correct and what would show with either boundary=ceremonial or boundary=administrative + admin_level=6.

This should in theory be a definition Nominatim should be able to work with. In practice this doesn’t get us a nice non-overlapping coverage of the UK. This is a bit of a pain when building a hierarchy. I’ve opened Use ceremonial boundaries for UK counties · Issue #2911 · osm-search/Nominatim · GitHub to look into that.

And even when they did, they were Postal Counties which were often unrelated to any administrative county of the same name.

The Boundary Commissions don’t deal with addresses, only certain types of boundary. Local authorities decide on street names, Royal Mail add the post town and postcodes.
It would be beneficial to be clear what we mean by an “address” which depends on the usecase. In OSM addr:* tags are usually taken to represent a postal address, i.e. what you would write on an envelope to get a letter delivered to the right place. Nominatim uses a different model based on nested/overlapping polygons and proximity to place nodes, which can work well in some countries but is no more that a heuristic in the UK where it usually produces addresses which are unrecognisable as postal addresses.