Finding out as much information about your site early can influence how a project develops. There are various freely available resources online that you can view before embarking upon a project. Before heading too far down the path into a project these websites and services are a good checkpoint. I routinely use them to gather background information about locations before making my own investigations. Sometimes they don’t give any more information than already apparent, however they are useful background context. You can view these websites and begin to compile the constraints on the project in the earliest stages, even before getting any professional assistance.


Oldmaps online is a searchable portal accessing various other host institutions. It allows access to historical maps by geographic location. Old maps can show how surroundings have developed and within dated periods.


The EA allow access to their flooding data to enable planning to be correctly zoned. It is available to view and can give an early indication if a parcel of land will be viable for development. Local detailed flood risk assessments can bring these broad zones more accuracy that can sometimes mean sites can be developed even when in these zones, but these maps  give a decent starting point.
English Heritage provide access to the list of nationally designated heritage assets. Eg. if your building is listed or adjacent to a scheduled ancient monument. Altering a Listed Building without permission is a criminal offence so proper care is required. The list is searchable by map and information can be found out about buildings, sites and surroundings with a few clicks. Listing information includes a description of the property which can help inform any alterations.
Google maps are useful for additional information, particularly their aerial photography, streetview and 45˚ view images.

Magic is managed by Natural England, and provides an interactive map service showing the natural environment information from government. It is a great source for local and regional interests such as Ramsar sites or SSSI’s etc.


Where’s the path is a great little tool that displays Ordnance Survey open-source mapping side-by-side with google maps aerial photography. In rural areas this can be a great check or discovery. It is a little more basic than some of the larger, better funded websites, but is still incredibly useful.


Bing maps also do 45˚ views through their birdseye views. Additionally they also have Ordnance Survey maps available for view that show contours, rights of way etc.

This website has some great archives of Exeter, and is useful background information.


Most Local Councils hold maps of Conservation Areas and other information pertinent to a project. These can be either found online under their conservation pages or as part of the Local Plan. The Local Plan is usually a large and sometimes cumbersome document, but maps of any settlements are useful.Article 4 directions are sometimes shown on a map, which will indicate that Permitted Development rights (such as conversion to HMOs) may have been removed or suspended.Local Planning departments have now mostly uploaded previous planning applications that are searchable by address. These can often give additional information about any planning history, with drawings and any former refusal notices or conditions.Statutory undertakers will usually be able to provide a map extract of their assets, underground sewers, electricity cables, phone cables etc. Unfortunately these are not readily available as online public access.Use of these site’s data will be subject to Copyright usage and each has it’s own copyright, however they have been made available to view online and thus can be used for your own understanding of the site or buildings.