Mashup enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that the Ordnance Survey is to release an API for non-commercial applications.

The organisation – whose data access policy has long been the subject of debate – announced the move at an event in its Southampton HQ on Friday.

It said it is still mulling over the terms and conditions of the API, dubbed ‘Open Space’, but is looking for volunteers to take part in a three month closed trial.

For non-commercial developers, the move will provide an alternative platform to Google Maps; Yahoo! Maps and others, which are apparently not as strong as the Ordnance Survey outside cities, according to attendees at the event.

But the organisation said firms will still have to buy licences if they want to get their hands on its maps.

Ordnance Survey’s Andy Radburn said: “Our rationale here is to identify new and innovative uses of data; it’s not to replace existing partner products or services that are provided for commercial mapping.

Although the organisation has to earn its crust somehow, that decision will be a disappointment to firms who would like to use mapping data, even if it is only to enhance their sites and not to directly generate revenue.

It has not been decided yet whether charities will be deemed as commercial (which will mean that they will also have to buy licences).

Meanwhile, also speaking at the event was Chris Lightfoot from, who showed off some of its community-based mash-ups, including Placeopedia and YourHistoryHere.

As mySociety is sponsored by the government and receives cheaper access to Ordnance Survey data, they show what nuggets of creativity could be in the pipeline once the API goes live.

Doug Ricket of Google Maps also revealed that the firm is planning to add more detailed imagery from around the world to Google Maps in the next few weeks, in line with Google’s plans to map the world.