The demise of OpenSpace

Since its launch in 2008 by the Ordnance Survey, we have used OpenSpace mapping to display our walk routes on mapping at (optimally) 1:50000 scale, older routes had only a rough digital sketch map. The OpenSpace API (Application Programming Interface) was based on OpenLayers 2.12 and the OS need to remove this dependency and enable their map products to be used with any mapping library.

They recently emailed us to announce the withdrawal of their OpenSpace mapping in August 2021, to be replaced in our case by the OS Maps API available via the OS Data Hub. I saw the end coming quite a while ago when they declared that OpenSpace is no longer officially supported, though still available to existing users. They included links to their web pages to get us started on migration of our maps, but after creating a new account (mandatory) and obtaining a new API key, I immediately had a couple of very basic questions that I emailed to them.

It was far from clear which map type to use for our purposes: the choice was between WMTS and REST-ZXY, which meant little to me in our context. Their answer was that WMTS is better for GIS software and ZXY is better for web mapping (it requires less code).

Another choice was between layers: Leisure_27700 and Outdoor_27700 both sounded right. Leisure_27700 is the layer that gives access to 50k and 25k maps.

To get access to the 1:50000 and 1:25000 maps, the new account must be a premium account, but no financial details or commitment are necessary at this stage. Their web page shows their tile-based pricing structure with premium plan details to be supplied, but the first £1000 of access per month is free – that should be plenty for our site.

After the inevitable learning curve, I took the opportunity to make a big improvement to the way we create and show maps and the result is much better. Rather than a dedicated map page for each route, which requires changes to every one of them whenever a general change is needed, there is a single route-agnostic map page that is supplied with route-specific details for each trip via its PHP interface. The route map is now shown in a bigger window and the mapping will zoom in to 1:25000 if desired.

At the same time I went through the numerous older trips that previously had only sketch maps and they are now plotted on OS mapping.
Three solid weeks of effort, but CV lockdown is a good time to do it and I’m pleased with the result.

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