THE BOSS of an aerial cartographer claims it has been frozen out of business opportunities because rival Ordanance Survey (OS) has an unfair advantage.

Tristram Cary, CEO and chairman of Hartley Wintney-based Getmapping, has had to cut jobs as the national mapping agency OS, headquartered in Nursling, near Southampton, is given free rein to produce maps for central and local government from April.

That is when the Government intends to scrap existing competitive tenders and come to a deal with OS, which is a non-ministerial department, under the auspices of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Award-winning Getmapping – it was the first to create a complete colour aerial photograph of the UK – employs around 50 people.

Mr Cary said: “Ever since we were founded in 1999, we feel we have suffered from unfair competition from OS. In 2002, we took legal action, unsuccessfully, to try to stop OS competing unfairly by creating an exact copy of our aerial photography product using taxpayers money intended for mapping.

“Now this April, OS is going to be given a 10-year monopoly contract to supply all Government mapping when there are other commercial companies, including Getmapping, ready to offer competitive maps.

“This means we cannot compete, resulting in us having to shut down our independent cartography business called The People’s Map. We invested over £1million in that project and it has been completely wasted.

“Vince Cable and the Coalition Government have said they are all for more local empowerment with the ‘Big Society.’ They’ve said they don’t want Government to grow, and they want to support businesses.

“But I feel the OS has become a monopoly which has made the Government bigger, damaged the private sector and stopped local community involvement in mapping.”

Mr Cary said he has tried on numerous occasions to meet Baroness Hanham, who is the Minister in charge of OS at the Department of Communities and Local Government, James Arbuthnot, MP for North East Hampshire, has also tried to help Getmapping set up meetings with the Minister, but to no avail.

“It’s very annoying to us that you cannot get politicians to take an interest. You write to them and they pass the letters to OS,” said Mr Cary, who believes Mr Arbuthnot has been very supportive of Getmapping.

“He thinks we have been very badly treated, but he’s been unable to arrange any meeting with Baroness Hanham or anyone else to discuss the issue – they are just not interested.

“I think this is very damaging to British industry and is making mapping in this country less efficient than it should be.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the deal with the OS was cleared by the Office of Fair Trading. He said: “They made clear there were was no competition case to answer and no need for the Competition Commission to review this arrangement.

“Far from being ignored, Tristram Carey has met several DCLG officials including David Prout, a Director General at the Department.

“This deal will also bring significant savings for both the taxpayer and private companies in a time of tight budgets. Creating one definitive source of address data for England and Wales will bring big savings for taxpayers when we make this information free to all public services.’’