In May 2019 the housing development and enabling forum started a project looking into new housing developments where there seem to be problems getting postcodes allocated or activated.

What is the problem?

The main purpose of a postcode used to be to help Royal Mail sort mail for delivery.  However in a digital economy the postcode takes on an enhanced importance for a number of other service and data organisations.

Sale of postcode data is now a major income generator for Royal Mail. Postcode data is used by other organisations for billing, utility connections, credit checks, insurance and deliveries.  The data may be used in satnav and mapping systems.

For people moving onto a new housing development, getting the postcode allocated and activated is important as many systems don’t work without an activated postcode and can lead to problems. People seeking delivery of items to set up home, especially at best price, may be particularly affected.

A small survey

A survey was run between May and June 2019 locally; with housing association development officers, operations managers and local authority officers, to identify local issues and experiences of problems to do with postcodes on new developments.

Issues highlighted include:

  • New housing developments not appearing on on-line maps, so people cannot get post delivered and couldn’t find the local community centre. There was an incident where ambulance couldn’t find a flat, though this has now been resolved.
  • Although postcodes were issued on one site, they were not recognised by county council services which impacted the services being delivered and mapping of need.
  • Problems getting furniture or appliance deliveries as the delivery company could not find the property on a map and their systems did not recognise the postcodes.
  • Not being able to choose the supplier for phone and broadband services as many providers would not provide a service in the new area, though it is unclear why.
  • Possibility postcode activation might affect BT – on a site in Norfolk some time ago, BT could not connect any tenants as their postcodes were not registered.
  • Customers struggling to set up their utility bills for a period of 2 to 4 weeks.

What is the process to get new postcodes set up?

As a result of our survey we have found out more about the postcode allocation and activation system, and our report highlights the process and some ways we can improve the outcomes locally.

Here is the flowchart we produced setting out who does what in the process…

Notes: NYB = Not Yet Built and PAF = Postcode Activated File

What can partners do to help?

There are steps various partners may be able to take to get this process completed as quickly and effectively as possible. These include:

  • Using this weblink tool to check whether a postcode is activated or not. If not, the site sets out how to make contact to put this right.
  • Developers and site offices printing and sharing this flyer, setting out what the developer or new residents can do to get their postcode activated.
  • Publicising this link which takes you to the Royal Mail’s form to request activation of an address and postcode.
  • Sharing the work of the national Postcode Address File advisory board – a group which works hard to resolve these issues nationally – set out on this page.

Our report

You can find our report, Use of Postcodeshere.

We will be sharing the report and identifying ways partners can help smooth the process for new housing residents in future. Any suggestions will be gratefully received, please contact sue.beecroft@cambridge.gov.uk.