A detailed topographic map can be used to provide useful information across a range of fields – from town planning and land management to data surveying and even simple route finding. The word “topography” refers to the graphic representation of surfaces – in the case of topographic maps, that means the geographical and man made features of an environment. In extremely detailed cases, like OS Master Map for example, the topography featured can be so comprehensive that the maps feature post boxes and fences.
The advantages of this kind of mapping are clear. The topographic map is able to show both real and conceptual boundaries, overlaid onto an accurate representation of the physical features of a location or environment. That means that planners, surveyors and other construction professionals are able to visualise a proposed project in its real environment and its ideal environment – its connection with post codes, mobile phone service areas and other non-physical things.
The ability to see all the existing built features of an environment allows planning professionals and surveyors to make accurate decisions about the suitability of a proposed project for its given area. Where other such buildings or facilities already exist, the topographic map will show them clearly. Potential connections to existing service structures (roads; railways; and power lines) are also clearly visible on a high quality map like OS Master Map.
Once you start coming down through the scales, so your map shows a smaller area in greater detail, the potential applications of topography become almost limitless. From a land management; data collection and study; and planning point of view, topographic maps scaled on 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 ratios capable of delivering an enormous amount of pertinent information, showing almost every street and lane as well as every kind of building and existing installation.
The topographic map is also used to power street level mapping – the kind of mapping you’ll be familiar with from street atlases and, lately “how to find us” files embedded in company websites. The Ordnance Survey Street Level map is widely used in online applications, where it is made available with a customisable colour palette to allow for editing. The editing is used to make the location of the business and its primary landmarks instantly identifiable – another use for the huge detail that is available in high quality topographic images. Because everything is there, anything unnecessary can be removed to leave the map user with a clear illustration of the route he or she must take.
Local authorities and national Government run bodies use the topographic map regularly. As well as the emergency services and the army, which use maps of this nature to plan operations and develop contingency plans for natural disasters, the maps are used to reconstruct administrative boundaries and ensure that nationally available services (like hospitals and waste removal) are covering every part of the country with the right degree of intensity.
From the humble street atlas to OS Master Map, topographic map technology delivers the most accurate overall picture of the actual physical and built structure of Britain.