From Stratford to Nine Elms, Royal Mail is addressing London’s re-generation

08/03/2016

When it comes to large regeneration projects, London has seen some of the largest over the last few years. In winning the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, Stratford underwent an enormous transformation with the development of the Olympic Park, a major shopping centre, new homes, and improved transport infrastructure.

The current regeneration of Nine Elms in London, a largely industrial area sandwiched between Battersea, Vauxhall, and the River Thames, is one of the largest in Europe. The nineelmslondon.com website says that following the regeneration the area will, ‘become an ultra-modern, exciting destination in central London offering 18,000 new homes, 25,000 new jobs, new schools, parks, culture and the arts’.

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Regenerating an area creates opportunities in places that have been neglected or long-overlooked but the scale of these projects often means developers face many challenges. A huge amount of detailed and meticulous planning goes into shaping these developments, long before any building work starts.

With so many new homes, offices and other premises within the scope of these developments, identifying a Postcode and a postal address for each property is an essential task, with many important things to consider, such as:

  • Will the current Delivery Office be able to provide deliveries?
  • Is the Delivery Office large enough to handle additional mail volumes?
  • Can the current facilities within the Delivery Office accommodate increased volumes of mail arriving in more or larger vehicles, this is often an issue within built up city centres?

The process for creating addresses and assigning Postcodes

To create addresses, developers need to work closely with Local Authorities as they’re the bodies responsible for assigning street names and property numbers. When the address is created, a Local Authority will seek support from Royal Mail’s specialist addressing team, the Address Management Unit. Royal Mail’s Address Management Unit has strong and long established relationships with every Local Authority in the UK. The Local Authority and the Address Management Unit follow well-defined practices to make the definition of new addresses and the assigning of the all-important Postcode as smooth as possible. The skill, knowledge and experience of all of those involved is vital, particularly, in ensuring that the most appropriate Postcode is used given the constraints I’ve mentioned earlier.

The Address Management Unit performs the unique task of assigning Postcodes to all new developments; no other organisation in the UK does this. The size and nature of certain developments create certain challenges, for example, when there aren’t enough available Postcodes in the area to cover all of the new delivery points. When this happens, we need to re-code an area.

What is a re-code?

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Postcodes are a finite resource, there are only a limited number of possible combinations we have available to use. For example, in North London, for N1 1, there are 400 possible combinations of letters available for us to use, from N1 1AA to N1 1ZZ. Once all of the Postcodes have been taken up, it becomes necessary for us to introduce a new Postcode sector, such as N14 1, which then gives us a further 400 possible combinations, i.e. N14 1AA to N14 1ZZ. Sometimes, in order for us to preserve an existing Postcode boundary it is necessary for us to change the Postcodes for existing addresses if they fall within this new sector. This is what we refer to as a re-code.

Minimising disruption

Without necessarily realising it, you’re probably quite attached to your Postcode, its familiar, you use it more than you probably realise and it’s unlikely you want it to be changed. We try really hard not to create disruption to residents unless absolutely necessary and even then, we do our level best to minimise it. We follow the Postcode Address File (PAF®) Code of Practice, agreed with our regulator, Ofcom, when introducing Postcode and address changes.

For example, several years ago, I received notification of a large scale redevelopment in the Kings Cross area of London which included both the King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations. With the eventual redevelopment likely to result in around 2,000 new homes and a large number of retail units, it was clear from the outset that there was a risk of running out of the Postcodes we needed within the existing sector.

By liaising with the Local Authority, as is standard practice, we were able to identify which existing addresses would remain and which would be demolished. As it happened, on this occasion, much of the site had already been demolished to make space for the new development, so, despite the scale of the regeneration project, we only had to re-code 111 addresses and move them into a new Postcode sector.

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Several months before the change came into effect, my team wrote to the residents of all the impacted properties to explain the changes and the reasons behind them and answered any questions they had. We managed the migration over twelve months to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. This approach of ongoing communication between us, the Local Authority and residents is vital to the success of any Postcode re-code.

My team has considerable experience in assigning Postcodes for new addresses that are in the planning and construction phase and won’t be occupied until some point in the future, taking into consideration the existing delivery arrangements, how these may be impacted and any future large scale development activities.

Despite these addresses not being ready to receive mail, many organisations benefit from knowing what the address and Postcode will be as it enables them to process orders and connect key services such as electricity supplies and broadband, in advance.

We add details of these types of properties to our Not Yet Built database. Once we’ve received notification that they are live and capable of receiving mail, the delivery point information is then transferred to the PAF, and, where appropriate, added to our Multiple Residence database too.

The re-coding of Nine Elms is a significant project for my team and will be something we’re working on, with the Local Authorities, for some time to come. This project comes shortly after we completed the re-coding of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland where we assigned over 2,400 Postcodes to over one hundred thousand new addresses. If last year was anything to go by, there are going to be many more similar projects coming our way in the months and years ahead.

If you have any further questions about Postcode re-coding drop us an email: address.management@royalmail.com and we will be happy to help answer them.

Maria Bancroft

Address Maintenance Manager

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