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Ordnance Survey – County Boundaries

March 15, 2022 By David Crowther


Question:

Where can I find a complete set of County Boundaries for the UK?


Answer:

This is a common issue that I see from my GIS clients and it relates to the very complex local government system in the UK, consisting of three types of local government - either a local council, county council or a unitary authority.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_government_in_England


This therefore means there is no one complete boundary of ‘administrative’ Counties for the UK, but there are GIS files available from the Ordnance Survey that make up these three levels of geography.


The first place to start is the OS DATA HUB - https://osdatahub.os.uk/

Choosing the Get free OS OpenData Downloads button will open this page - https://osdatahub.os.uk/downloads/open

Where you can download the Boundary-Line data for the UK - https://osdatahub.os.uk/downloads/open/BoundaryLine

Once downloaded this will provide a series of GIS (Shape) files for all these levels of administration....

….however, when you display the COUNTIES layer on its own, we see gaps as not all areas of the UK are administrated by a County.

One option is to then display the other levels of geography e.g. District_Borough_Region and then start to fill in the gaps –

… where one by one you can copy and paste the missing areas into your COUNTIES layer e.g. select the Cornwall Areafrom the District_Borough_Region layer and paste that into the Counties to create Cornwall.

This would be a slow process, but will get you the most accurate representation of the boundaries.

There is however a ‘CEREMONIAL’ version of the Counties data which is supplied in the download from the OS Open Data in the Supplementary Ceremonial folder


If you open this layer into QGIS you can see that it gives you a full representation of the UK Counties.


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