Using the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) – a guide for councils

The Unique Property Reference Number – the unique identifier for every addressable location – is key to almost everything that’s delivered or achieved by councils.

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The Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) should be fundamental to all data matching and, therefore, to all data analysis. This would ensure that disparate data sets and innovative applications of data can be blended to provide insight and understanding about residents and businesses, which is needed to deliver area-based services effectively on the ground. Every authority has common focal points, such as housing, education, welfare and highways. When the UPRN is added to each siloed department’s data, the whole organisation benefits. It becomes a much simpler exercise to link inter-departmental information.

Everything that local government does happens somewhere, be it housing a homeless person, collecting someone's bin or providing support to a family in difficulty. Precise location information is essential for councils to deliver services to the residents they serve.

Access the full series of five videos on location intelligence from Socitm on Vimeo:

The LGA, in partnership with Ordnance Survey and GeoPlace, has been an advocate of the creation and rollout of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) and Unique Street Reference Numbers (USRNs) for almost three decades. In 2020, the Government announced that these indicators are now released under an Open Government Licence. Additionally, the Open Standards Board, via Government Digital Service (GDS), has mandated that from 1July 2020, the UPRN and USRN are the government standard for referencing and sharing property and street information. This means that all new public sector systems and projects that include address and/or street data should include the identifiers.

The UPRN is the unique identifier for every addressable location in Great Britain. UPRNs can be used for addressable locations such as residential and commercial buildings and for objects which may not have a typical address for example, an electricity substation or a bus shelter. The UPRN provides every property with a persistent identifier throughout its existence (from planning through to demolition). GeoPlace sets out a comprehensive background to the creation, governance and use of the UPRNs. There are some “easy wins” to be made by linking data using UPRNs, from which many local authorities and fire authorities could quickly benefit. See some examples on the GeoPlace website.

We continue to encourage councils and the wider public sector to include UPRN references in all data they hold that is defined with a location. This does not need to be an ambitious project that sees the entire council move to a single system: rather, there are quick wins from starting to link just a few data sets. The UPRN provides the link to connect these data sets together.

Data analysts or heads of service who want to do this are not alone; they can call upon their local gazetteer custodians to work with them. Councils in England and Wales each have one or more custodians, whose role is to oversee the creation and maintenance of the geospatial records used to contribute to the national property and street data set. These custodians undertake skilled, detailed jobs that involve high levels of accuracy and responsibility. More details on the work of local custodians can be found on the GeoPlace website.

The LGA has worked with GeoPlace to develop a series of support materials to help organisations use UPRNs more routinely in their data processes.

A checklist document summarises key steps to help you make effective use of UPRNs within your authority's service areas.

A quick UPRN Integration Assessment tool is available to help service managers ascertain how well integrated their systems are with the UPRN. It takes less than three minutes to complete and provides recommendations on how to improve if need be.

GeoPlace has published a collection of Government advice and guidance on using address and street data which may assist you further.

Finally, you should contact your custodians who are ready to work with you to advise further. To find the local custodians for your council, you can use our 'Find My Custodian' tool.

The LGA, working with its partners GeoPlace and the Ordnance Survey, provide a number of additional online tools to promote the wider take-up on UPRNs by public and private organisations and the general public.

You can identify UPRNs within the Find My Address tool.

You can find those other geographical, political and statistical areas of given types around a specified UPRN or postcode - or a set of UPRNs and postcodes in an uploaded CSV file using the Find My Area tool.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an additional imperative on councils to support residents - particularly vulnerable and shielding members of the community. Data has played a critical role in informing this response. More specifically, the value of data about places has been vital to accurately provide efficient and effective service delivery solutions.

The LGA commissioned GeoPlace to highlight the value of efficient data transfer using UPRNs in the context of COVID-19 and the importance of making accurate links between data sourced from a range of locations. The report brings light to the challenges faced by councils aiming to match data accurately and considers the ways in which UPRNs mitigate those issues – enabling data to be consumed more easily, providing a faster evidence-based response.

The report collates just some examples from across the country to showcase how location based data, specifically data with a Unique Property Reference Number, has been used to respond to resident needs, for instance identifying and supporting more vulnerable people needing additional care. You can view the full report on GeoPlace’s website.

Information was gathered from seven councils who make use of the UPRN, enhancing their internal datasets with this information to improve their response in the pandemic. Click on the councils to view their case studies: