Address and opening times of Post Office branches

Julian Burgess made this Freedom of Information request to Royal Mail Group Limited

The request was partially successful.

From: Julian Burgess

15 May 2008

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please could you under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 supply
me with the name, address and normal opening times for all post
office branches including franchises. Your reply would preferably
be in the form of an electronic database export such as XML, CSV.

Yours faithfully,

Julian

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Royal Mail Group Limited

19 May 2008

Dear Mr Burgess

Thank you for your request for information received on 15th May 2008, which
we are considering under the Freedom of Information Act. Under the Act you
can expect to here from us within 20 working days of receipt.

If for any reason we are unable to provide you with a full response within
that time, we will write to you again explaining the reasons for this and
giving a revised date by which we will reply.

If in the mean time you have any questions regarding this or would like to
contact us about your request, please write to me or telephone 01252
806513. Please be assured that we are giving this our attention and will
get back to you shortly.

Yours sincerely

Roger Mence

[Royal Mail Group request email]

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in England
and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 148 Old Street, LONDON EC1V
9HQ

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Royal Mail Group Limited

27 May 2008


Attachment attachment.txt
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Dear Mr Burgess

Thank you for your recent request for information regarding Post Office®
branches. Your request for information has now been considered and, in
accordance with our duty under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I’m
writing to advise you that we cannot provide the information you have asked
for.

You requested the name and of all Post Office® branches, along with the
opening hours for each branch. Under section 21 of the Act, we are not
required to provide information in response to a request if it is already
reasonably accessible to you. The information you requested is available
from our website:
http://www.postoffice.co.uk/portal/po/fi...

You can search for all branches in a particular town or postcode area. The
search results will list all branches in each town and the addresses. You
can click on the ‘view details’ button next to each address to view the
opening hours for that branch.

The availability of information on current branch addresses is also
specified in our publication scheme, which directs applicants to the
on-line ‘branch locator’. Royal Mail therefore considers that the
information is clearly exempt from disclosure under s21 of the Act, and
that there is no obligation to provide it in the alternative format
requested. This is an absolute exemption and the public interest test
therefore does not apply in this case.

If for any reason you are not satisfied with this reply, you do have a
right to request an internal review of the way in which your request has
been answered. If you wish to do so, please write to the Head of
Information Compliance at: Company Secretary's Office, 5th Floor, 148 Old
Street, London, EC1V 9HQ.

If, having requested an internal review, you are still not satisfied with
our response you also have a right to appeal to the Information
Commissioner who may be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Yours Sincerely

Colin Young
Freedom of Information Manager
[Royal Mail Group request email]

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in England
and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 148 Old Street, LONDON EC1V
9HQ

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From: Julian Burgess

3 June 2008

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for your response. However I do not consider that Post
Office finder provides exemption under section 21 of the Act, since
it does not provide a 'readily accessible' list of all Post Office
branches with opening times. It provides an service to find the
location and opening times for a single branch.

The DCA guidance,
http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/guidance/exgui...

2.13 Factors which may be relevant when determining whether
information is 'readily accessible' may, for example, include
whether it is:

* discrete and able to be isolated or collated - or diffuse and
difficult to identify
* subject to onerous conditions as to access or as to subsequent
use.

To produce a complete list of all Post Office branches with opening
times using the branch finder would require compiling 16,500
different pages and checking for duplicates.

I would like my request to be reconsidered or subjected to internal
review as appropriate.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Burgess

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Royal Mail Group Limited

4 June 2008


Attachment Ack Burgess 080603.pdf
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Dear Mr Burgess,

Please see the attachment relatiing to your internal review.

(See attached file: Ack Burgess 080603.pdf)

Regards
Roger Mence
[Royal Mail Group request email]

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From: Julian Burgess

8 July 2008

Dear Sir or Madam,

I note that it has now been 25 working days since I requested the
internal review. Please can you confirm that the review will be
concluded within your 40 day limit. Also please could you confirm
whether the 40 day limit is working days as it was unclear in your
letter.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Burgess

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Royal Mail Group Limited

11 July 2008

Subject: Request for Internal Review

Dear Mr Burgess

Thank you for your appeal against a decision by Royal Mail Group to
withhold information under the Freedom of Information Act. Our Review
Panel has now considered this in full, and I am writing to advise you of
their decision.

In your request for information received 16 May 2008 you requested the
name, address and opening hours of all Post Office branches. You also
requested that this information be provided in an electronic database
format.

In his reply dated 27 May 2008, Colin Young explained that, although Royal
Mail Group holds the information requested, it is considered to be exempt
from disclosure under s21 of the Act, and that there is no obligation to
provide it in the alternative format requested.

In your request for internal review dated 3 June 2008 you argued that
section 21 was not applicable as you do not believe that Post Office
Limited’s branch locator tool does provide a readily accessible list of all
Post Office branches with opening times. You suggest that the website only
allows the user to find the location and opening times for a single branch.
However, the Review Panel considered that the branch name, address and
opening hours of all Post Office branches could be accessed through the
branch locator. Further there are no restrictions to access, the number of
searches which can be made or to subsequent use of this information.

Section 21 of the Act specifies that information already reasonably
accessible to the applicant is exempt information, and this is an absolute
exemption (that is, it is not subject to the public interest test). All of
the information you have requested is already reasonably available from
Post Office Limited’s website, albeit not in the format requested, and
therefore Royal Mail considers it exempt information under the Act. The
availability of information on current branch addresses is also specified
in our publication scheme, which directs applicants to the on-line ‘branch
locator’. The question is therefore not whether the information itself
should be provided, but whether it should be provided in the format
requested.

Under section 11 of the Act, where an applicant expresses a preference for
the information to be provided in a particular format Royal Mail should
consider this as far as reasonably practical. However, Awareness Guidance
29 from the Information Commissioner’s Office clearly states that:

“Where an applicant requests information that is within a publication
scheme and specifies a particular form, the public authority should explain
that as the information is already available, it does not have to comply
with section 11. It should give the applicant details of where to find the
information.’

Royal Mail therefore considers that the information is clearly exempt under
s21 of the Act, and that there is no obligation to provide it in the
alternative format requested. This is an absolute exemption and the public
interest test therefore does not apply in this case.

I am sorry that on this occasion your request cannot be met, but please
contact me if you would like any clarification or if there is anything
further I can do to help. In the event that you are not satisfied with
this response, you do of course also have a right to appeal to the
Information Commissioner who can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Telephone: 01625 545 700
www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Martin Rush
Head of Information Compliance

Company Secretary's Office
5th Floor, 148 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HQ

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Julian Burgess left an annotation (25 September 2008)

Quote-marks I have appealed to the Information Commissioner regarding this request. They have said the case meets their criteria and will be investigated in due course. I will post any updates here.

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Edward Betts left an annotation ( 8 October 2008)

Quote-marks I crawled the post office finder and found 12093 post offices:

http://edwardbetts.com/postoffices/

Data dump in JSON format:

http://edwardbetts.com/postoffices/posto...

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Tom Taylor left an annotation ( 9 October 2008)

Quote-marks Edward, that's fantastic work! Will you be open sourcing the code you used to scrape the site so we can update it when the post office close more branches?

Link to this

Edward Betts left an annotation (10 October 2008)

Quote-marks The code is written in Perl. You can get it from http://edwardbetts.com/postoffices/

Link to this

Julian Burgess left an annotation (10 October 2008)

Quote-marks Fantastic work Edward, many thanks. I owe you a beer or two.

Link to this

Julian Burgess left an annotation (10 November 2008)

Quote-marks I heard back from the Information Commissioner. They have sent an informal notice which essentially says that as the Branch Finder is part of the Post Office publication scheme it meets the criteria of being "reasonably accessible".

Thanks to Edward's scraper we now have a list of all branches. However the total number differs from the official figure, so I have submitted a request to find out why.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/nu...

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Royal Mail Group Limited

23 March 2009


Attachment Office List 210309.xls
20K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Burgess

I am writing to you with regard to your Freedom of Information request
received by Post Office Limited on 16 May 2008 and your further appeal to
the Information Commissioner, in relation to Royal Mail Groups decision to
withhold information under the Freedom of Information Act.

In our response to your initial request, for addresses and normal opening
times for all post office branches including franchises, and your request
for an internal review, Colin Young & Martin Rush advised you that the
branch name, address and opening hours of all Post Office® branches could
be accessed via the branch locator.

In addition to this, I would like to advise you that there are a small
number of branches that are operational but due to restrictions on public
access are not included in Post Office Ltd's main branch locator. To assist
you in your request I have therefore attached a spreadsheet detailing the
names, addresses and opening hours of these branches.

It is important to make you aware that the branches detailed in the
attached file fall into two distinct categories, those that are operational
and have restricted access to the general public and those that are
operational and have no public access.

I hope the information provided is of use. If there is anything further I
can do to help please contact me via our e-mail address, [Royal Mail Group request email].

Yours sincerely

Peter Johnson
Freedom of Information Manager
Post Office Limited
[Royal Mail Group request email]

(See attached file: Office List 210309.xls)

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