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Historical aerial photos are used to help study land forms and geomorphology

Historical aerial photographs are being used by undergraduates at Nottingham Trent University to help them understand some of the essential facets of remote sensing technology. Images from the Bluesky archive are used to demonstrate the effects of topography and other features on unprocessed aerial images and help students understand the process of orthorectification. Aerial photographs are also used for research activities, specifically the mapping and monitoring of land cover and erosion in areas of upland peat, and the identification and examination of sites of potential archaeological interest on the university campus.
“Bluesky has an extensive archive that is easily interrogated via an online search engine,” commented Dr Ben Clutterbuck, Lecturer in GIS and Remote Sensing Technologies at Nottingham Trent University. “As camera calibration data are provided with images obtained from OldAerialPhotos, we can demonstrate how orthorectification of the imagery removes distortion introduced by the camera system and varied topography.”

“Imagery supplied by Bluesky also feeds into modules examining upland geomorphological processes,” continued Dr Clutterbuck. “For example, from a recent requisition of imagery we have been able to quantify the short-term progression of a ‘bog burst’ – a mass movement of blanket peat often initiated by a rapid intense rainfall event. By feeding current research into our teaching activities we can keep module content fresh, up to date and therefore interesting.”

The imagery supplied by Bluesky to Nottingham Trent University forms part of an historically important archive that includes some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, military photography from World War II and many national archives. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, the images are an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.

Visitors to http://www.oldaerialphotos.com can search through more than a million aerial photos dating back as far as 1917 by simply entering a postcode, address or grid reference. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage, of every image that matches the search criteria are displayed and the visitor can choose to purchase a hard copy print, digital image file or money saving photopack.

 

More than 100,000 aerial photographs have been added to the Old Aerial Photos online collection of historically important images following an agreement with Land & Property Services (Northern Ireland) to supply the entire Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI) photographic archive. The newly available archive includes complete countrywide coverage from 2002 onwards together with a vast array of mainly urban areas dating back to the 1950’s. With scales ranging from 1:20,000 up to 1:3,000 visitors to www.oldaerialphotos.com will be able to view and download images to help with boundary or property disputes, site investigation, historical research or genealogical studies.

“We hope that this agreement will encourage greater uptake and use of our vast historical archive,” commented Philip Goss, Copyright and Contract Manager at Land & Property Services. “Bluesky, who manage Old Aerial Photos, has an excellent reputation as an experienced supplier of historical imagery and already hold the largest archive of historical imagery in the UK. This agreement will build on this position and will further help Bluesky grow their immense archive making them a one stop shop for aerial photography in Britain and Northern Ireland.” Philip added, “Aerial photography was first used as a source for mapping information in 1958 following a decision to create a new map reference system, the Irish Grid, which would enable seamless coverage of the Country, More recently air photography has also been used for the generation of various products including orthophotography, a seamless detailed scaled photograph of Northern Ireland.”

Visitors to www.oldaerialphotos.com can already search through more than a million aerial photos dating back as far as 1917 by simply entering a postcode, address or grid reference. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage, of every image that matches the search criteria are displayed and the visitor can choose to purchase either a hard copy print or digital image file.

Photos that are available to purchase from http://www.oldaerialphotos.com include some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, military photography from World War II and many national archives. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, the images are an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.

 

Fugro-BKS (formerly BKS Surveys) has signed up as a content provider to Bluesky’s online collection of historically important aerial photographs. Visitors to www.oldaerialphotos.com will now be able to search through thousands of additional unique aerial images from the 1950’s onwards including many complete UK county surveys. The Fugro-BKS images available from OldAerialPhotos also include a significant amount of project specific photographs covering sites in Hampshire, Cornwall, Norfolk, Grampian, Tyne and Wear and Merseyside.

“BKS is a very well known and highly respected name in the aerial survey sector and we are therefore delighted that they have come on board as content providers for the OldAerialPhotos website,” commented James Eddy, Technical Director of Bluesky. “This agreement with Fugro-BKS will further enhance the visitors’ experience providing access to an unprecedented million plus historically important images.”

“OldAerialPhotos provides a fascinating window on the past revealing towns and cities as they have developed over the past fifty plus years,” commented Mervyn Adams, Production Manager of Fugro-BKS. “The addition of our back collection of imagery to the archive will further enhance the potential for historic research and local area studies.”

Fugro-BKS was established in 1956 in Leatherhead, Surrey. The founding shareholders, J.W.Barnby, M.Keegan and R.W. Stevens, gave the company its initials B.K.S. and the company’s main businesses were aerial photography and topographical surveys. In 1965, Fugro-BKS expanded its operation through new offices in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, and in 1967, the Leatherhead production facility was transferred to an enlarged Coleraine unit. In April 2008 BKS joined the Fugro group; based in Holland Fugro has more than 300 operating companies worldwide, providing a range of geotechnical survey and geoscience services.

Visitors to www.oldaerialphotos.com can search through almost million aerial photos dating back as far as 1917 by simply entering a postcode, address or grid reference. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage, of every image that matches the search criteria are displayed and the visitor can choose to purchase either a hard copy print or digital image file.

Photos that are available to purchase from www.oldaerialphotos.com include some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, military photography from the Second World War and many national archives. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, the images are an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.

OldAerialPhotos.com a division of Bluesky International Limited has signed a reseller agreement with Landmark, Britain’s leading supplier of land and property search information. The deal will see the UK’s largest collection of historically important commercial aerial photographs being made available through the Envirocheck website further helping professional users to make informed decisions based on comprehensive environmental site assessment information. The million plus photographs, from the Old Aerial Photos archive, date back as far as 1917 and include some of the earliest commercial survey images, military photography and many national archives.

Envirocheck.co.uk brings together the best environmental information and digital mapping in one simple to use package. Delivering details of contaminated land, pollution, flooding and flood prevention schemes, landfill sites, hazardous substances, geological features and industrial or sensitive land uses, the basic Envirocheck report includes Data Sheets, Site Sensitivity Maps and Historical site plans.

The Old Aerial Photos images will be offered on the Envirocheck website as a value added service and registered users can select images from detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage of every image that matches the search criteria, with the file supplied as a digital image.

“Although often quoted it is none the less true ‘a picture (really does) paint a thousand words’ so the addition of the Old Aerial Photos to the Envirocheck solution will really help uncover and bring to life potentially important environmental information,” commented David Mole, Managing Director of Landmark Environment.

Rachel Tidmarsh, Managing Director of Bluesky commented, “This is an important agreement for the future development and preservation of the archive. Landmark is a leader in the field of land and property search information and the interest they can generate will be used to further enhance the collection.”

Old Aerial Photos that are available to purchase from Envirocheck.co.uk include some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, military photography from World War II and many national archives. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, the images are an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.

OldAerialPhotos.com is a division of Bluesky International Limited.

Aerial survey specialist, Bluesky, has launched a new web service offering an online window to the largest collection of UK based historical aerial photographs. Visitors to http://www.oldaerialphotos.com can search through millions of aerial images dating back as far as the 1940s by simply entering a postcode, address or grid reference. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage, of every image that matches the search criteria are displayed and the visitor can choose to purchase either a hard copy print or digital image file. www.oldaerialphotos.com is a division of Bluesky.

“This is a very important development for anyone with a personal or professional interest in the past,” said Rachel Tidmarsh, Managing Director of Bluesky. “By giving visitors to http://www.oldaerialphotos.com the ability to search through literally millions of images with just a few clicks of a mouse we are bringing together for the first time a valuable and comprehensive record of our past. Many of these images have previously only been available to archivists or those with specialist knowledge of how to find them, now it will be easy for everyone to search through these historic collections.”

Visitors to http://www.oldaerialphotos.com can search through almost a million historically significant collections of both vertical and oblique aerial photography. Through an ambitious and ongoing acquisition programme and agreements with a number of historically important private, commercial and government organisations Bluesky has already secured, and will continue to do so, unrivalled access to a photographic record of the country’s past. Bluesky’s own team of photographic experts have collated and formatted information about every image creating a Master Aerial Database that powers the online service.

Images that are available to purchase from www.oldaerialphotos.com include some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images, fascinating military photography from World War II and one of the largest collections of oblique photography in the UK. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments http://www.oldaerialphotos.com is an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in local studies, genealogy, boundary disputes, environmental land use research or town planning.

OldAerialPhotos has acquired access to the UK’s largest collection of commercial aerial survey photographs and have made many of them available online. Following an agreement between Bluesky, of which OldAerialPhotos is a division, and Blom Aerofilms, photographs dating from the 1950s held on about 7,000 original films are available to purchase from www.oldaerialphotos.com.

Many of the images have never previously been available to purchase online. These were captured by some of the most prestigious names in the UK aerial survey industry, including Fairey, Huntings, Simmons, Clyde and Engineering Surveys – all part of Blom Aerofilms’s UK heritage. The agreement also covers the housing and management of the original films at Bluesky’s dedicated film archive facility.

Visitors to http://www.oldaerialphotos.com can already search through nearly a million aerial photos dating back to the early part of the last century by simply entering a postcode, address or grid reference. Detailed search results, including the age and ground coverage, of every photo that matches the search criteria are displayed and the visitor can choose to purchase either a hard copy print or digital image file.

The enormous task of processing the films and transferring information about the imagery to the online search engine will take place at Bluesky’s image processing facility in Coalville, Leicestershire. This is likely to take several months.

For Blom Aerofilms, these images represent a 90-year history of the company as one of Europe’s leading specialists in aerial imagery, plotting work undertaken over many years for local authorities, public bodies and commercial organisations across the UK and beyond. “It’s a unique and specialist collection, and we hope that many people with both a commercial and personal interest will find it as valuable and informative as we have,” commented Gavin Lewis, Sales and Marketing Director at Blom Aerofilms.

“Anyone with an interest in the UK aerial survey will have heard of the above companies and will be excited by the fact that the photos, for the first time ever, will now be available online,” commented David Drabble, Archive Manager at Bluesky. “For those less familiar with the industry it is probably more significant that these historically important photos are being added to what is already the UK’s largest online collection of aerial photography, making oldaerialphotos.com a one stop shop for anyone with a personal or professional interest in the past.”

Photos that are already available to purchase from oldaerialphotos.com include some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images and military photography from World War II and many national archives, including oblique aerial photographs. Offering a record of most major UK cities and towns, transport and utility infrastructure and commercial property developments, oldaerialphotos.com is an invaluable resource for anyone with a personal or professional interest in boundary disputes, local studies, genealogy, environmental land use research or town planning.

Old Aerial Photos are delighted to announce the addition of a new collection to the archive.  Cartographical Surveys Limited (Cartos), Worcester, have a collection of aerial photos dating from the  mid 70s up until 2003.  Following an agreement between Old Aerial Photos and Cartos the entire collection, including films, flight reports, flight diagrams, calibration certificates, has been moved to the Old Aerial Photo storage facility in the Midlands.

It will take some time to get the entire collection up onto the OAP website as the flight plots will need to be digitised, however we will be able to offer the photos through the office in the near future, so please get in touch to find out more.

Visit www.oldaerialphotos.com to find out more, or give Peter a call on 01530 518528.

I have recently finished a case in which a local authority were taking a local resident to court over an alleged land use change.  I thought I would share a few of the details.

The council were claiming that the four acres of land around the residents house had changed from agricultural purposes to  storage of certain materials, over a 10 year period.  We were able to source several aerial photographs of the area, two of them exactly ten years apart.  All of them were clear enough to make out the land use.  Without going into too many details we were able to prove that the land had indeed been used for the storage of the materials for the at least the preceding 10 years, and longer.  Admittedly the aerial photos also showed the volume of materials stored has increased, and the agriculture had decreased.

We were able to offer the resident a full service, including the aerial photos as prints with letters of authenticity, and full written report on the land use, including a land use map.  We also offered statutory declarations and if necessary a witness in court.  To date we have never had to supply a court witness, as the photos and the report tend speak for themselves, such is the weight of this evidence.

If you want to know more please email info@oldaerialphotos.com or visit www.oldaerialphotos.com

James

Why do boundary disputes arise?

I was considering the issue of using aerial photos to resolve boundary disputes, when I recalled this article. It is a few years old now, but gives us a good insight into why disputes arise. It was written by John Maynard FRICS.

Far more boundary disputes occur between the owners of two residential properties than between commercial or agricultural neighbours. A typical boundary dispute will be influenced by a variety of factors, some of them technical, some of them socio-legal, some of them psychological.

Technical factors include:

– legal arguments as to whether adverse possession affects the case;

– arguments as to whether certain legal presumptions (such as the hedge and ditch presumption) affect the case;

– downright poor descriptions of the boundaries.

I shall pass over the legal arguments and concentrate on boundary descriptions. Boundary descriptions can be expressed in words or they can be map-based. There is a good reason as to why so many boundaries are so badly described, and it is down to cost. Describing a boundary in words is extremely difficult, and only a land surveyor would know and understand all of the things that should be included in such a description. Describing a boundary in a picture (ie. a map) is relatively easy – for a land surveyor. The trouble is that it costs money to hire the services of a land surveyor to draft or draw what is seen as only a minor part of a conveyance deed, and conveyancing is already seen as expensive enough. So vendors and purchasers have traditionally saved themselves money by relying on inadequate boundary descriptions.

Some boundary descriptions rely entirely on drawings, others include dimensions to supplement the drawings. Here are the problems that are all too common.

Dimensions: Lawyers are accustomed to the notion that maps and plans are not always as accurate as we would like them to be. Lawyers and landowners seem to have a blind spot over the accuracy of dimensions: the thinking appears to be that the dimensions are stated in black and white in a deed so therefore they must be right. I have many reservations over a list of dimensions.

– Who measured them: a qualified land surveyor or the landowner’s gardener?

– What equipment and/or method was used in the measurement?

– Do the dimensions represent horizontal distances (as might be scaled from, or plotted onto, a map or plan) or slope distances along the ground?

To illustrate how significant these discrepancies can be: one case I worked on in Kent involved a dimension that told me the piece of land was 106 feet wide. The land was steeply sloping, and if that dimension was a slope distance, then the plan (or horizontal) distance was only 98 feet 6 inches.

Another problem with dimensions is that they never seem to be given with sufficient information to unambiguously define the boundary. For example, if you give me a set of three dimensions then you are unambiguously defining the size and shape of a triangle (but not of its position on the earth’s surface). I have yet to come across a property that is a simple triangle. Most pieces of land have four, or many more, sides. Give me a larger set of dimensions (than the three sides of a triangle) and you are defining nothing, as the diagram on the right should convince you.

A further problem with dimensions arises when the deeds state the length of a curve or of a sinuous line. Such a dimension is impossible to set out on the ground.

Maps and plans: A wide range of types of plan has been pressed into use as conveyance plans. In the ideal world a conveyance plan should be at a large scale (preferably at 1:500 or at the even larger 1:250 or 1:200 scale) and should show what was actually built. I understand that conveyance plans based on such as-built surveys do exist but I have yet to see one. Here is a list of the types of conveyance plan that I do come across and of what can be wrong with each of them.

Copies of Ordnance Survey maps or of Land Registry plans. Land Registry plans are of course essentially just copies of Ordnance Survey maps. There are references to the accuracy of Ordnance Survey mapping elsewhere on this page. The important thing to repeat here is that Ordnance Survey maps show the physical features that their surveyors encountered and that their surveyors do not make enquiries as to where property boundaries are. So Ordnance Survey maps do not show property boundaries and skillful map interpretation is needed to reconcile the information from the conveyance plan with what one finds on the ground.

Tracings of Ordnance Survey maps. A lot of conveyance plans from the first half of the twentieth century are clearly tracings made from Ordnance Survey maps. If one has to worry about the accuracy of the original Ordnance Survey map, then a tracing made from it can only contain even more inaccuracy.

Developers’ layout plans. Before a green (or brown) field site becomes a housing estate it is necessary for an architect to make detailed drawings showing where all the roads, underground services, houses, an fences will go, and where the preserved trees will be allowed to remain. To save on cost, these same drawings will be used as the basis of the conveyance plans for the individual houses and their appurtenant land. The trouble is that the roads and underground services may have had to take slightly different routes, with the result that the houses had to be built in slightly different places, which meant that the fences went up in places other than the architect had in mind. The end result is that the conveyance plan (ie. the layout plan) bears little resemblance to what was actually built on the land.

Sketch plans. The very name warns of their likely inaccuracy.

Other plans. I once told a client that the plan to his 1899 conveyance was by far the most accurate I had seen. It was beautifully drawn and bore a scale of 1 inch = 30 feet (or 1:360). I later enlarged an Ordnance Survey map to the same scale, overlaid the two, and they didn’t fit. Of course, it is possible that this is because the smaller scale (1:1250) Ordnance Survey map was less accurately surveyed than the conveyance plan, but somehow I doubt it (I didn’t have the opportunity of checking it by doing my own survey). This incident does highlight the need to avoid taking things at their face value and to make your own independent checks.

Socio-legal factors

One factor in boundary disputes is a lack of education about boundaries among landowners. Most people simply do not understand, and why should they, that there is no government organisation that is charged with defining the extents of privately owned land. They automatically assume, wrongly, that Land Registry performs this function and that Land Registry’s red edging identifies the line that precisely defines their boundary.

Another important factor in boundary disputes is the lack, in English law, of a concept of theft of land. Plants, statues, paving stones, parked cars, and almost anything else including the soil itself, may be stolen from your land, but the land itself cannot be stolen. Land can be possessed by someone other than the rightful owner, and if that possession is adverse to the interests of the rightful owner then the adverse possessor may eventually become the rightful owner. But if the rightful owner wins a civil case to recover his land, then the adverse possessor does not gain a criminal conviction for theft and cannot be sent to prison (unless of course he has demonstrated a contempt of court during the course of the trial). The prospect of an adverse possessor being rewarded with the title to the land he is claiming is an encouragement to squatters. The lack of sanction of a failed adverse possession, by means of a criminal record and a prison sentence, means there is no deterrent against squatters.

Another factor is the lack of intermediate legal processes that might defuse a boundary dispute and prevent it from escalating. A surveyor might at an early stage give his professional opinion as to where the boundary is, but it is only an opinion and does not carry any force of law. The surveyor does not have powers similar to those of a policeman who may intervene in a potential civil unrest to ensure that no breach of the peace or riot ensues.

A fourth factor is a lack of take-up of alternative means of dispute resolution that fall short of taking the matter to the county court. There are mediators willing, via a process of shuttle diplomacy, to facilitate a negotiated settlement between disputing neighbours, but their services are too infrequently used in the resolution of boundary disputes. There are adjudicators who will make impartial decisions as to the position of the boundary based on the evidence presented to them, but they are again infrequently used in the resolution of boundary disputes. It remains to be seen whether the new post of Adjudicator to HM Land Registry, set up by the Land Registration Act 2002, will provide an acceptable alternative means of resolving boundary disputes.

Psychological factors

For lack of other controls, psychological factors come into play and will often drive forward a dispute that could have been resolved had the matter been approached in an entirely rational manner.

One such psychological factor is greed. An example is a new owner who, only after moving into the house he has bought, notices that the fence is nearer to the side of his house than the conveyance plan shows it. Instead of accepting that he bought the land contained within the fence (which is the land that he was shown and was identified to him at the time he viewed the house), he presses a claim against his unwitting neighbour for the ‘return’ to him of land that he did not purchase in the first place.

The next example may also be described as greed although it could also be properly described as a pseudo-boundary dispute. It involves the landowner who desires to build an extension, garage, driveway or whatever along the side of his house but discovers there is insufficient room and fabricates a boundary dispute in order to manufacture the space demanded by his plans.

Another psychological factor is an arrogant disdain for the rights of the neighbour. It is quite possible to successfully press an unwarranted case against a neighbour who you know is not prepared to countenance the costs involved in defending his rights in court. If only there was a civil equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service!

The two most powerful psychological factors are an emotive quest for justice and a determination by the injured party not to allow the neighbour to ‘get one over’. When these operate together they provide an unstoppable momentum to see the matter through to the county court, not matter how long it takes, no matter how upsetting the process is, and no matter how much it costs.

A better way

It is inevitable to believe that there must be a better way of doing things, that would either prevent boundary disputes from happening, or that would make it easier to resolve disputes.

Other countries have other systems of land registration that tend to rely heavily on the accurate mapping, recording and the physical marking on the ground of boundaries. To change our system to a similar model would be inordinately expensive. It would also be more expensive to run and maintain, and whilst there might be fewer opportunities for boundary disputes, no system can be proof against boundary disputes.

Within the present system we can do nothing about the totally inadequate boundary descriptions in the deeds of existing properties. For new properties, Land Registry is trying to persuade developers of the wisdom of doing as-built surveys for use as conveyance plans. If developers used as-built surveys to register ‘determined boundaries’ (see “Agreed and ‘Determined’ Boundaries”, on the Boundaries page) for the new properties then (so the thinking goes) these new houses could be marketed as being proof against future boundary disputes – and such a marketing advantage should provide enough incentive for the developers to abandon their practice of re-using layout plans for conveyancing. I haven’t noticed any advertisements boasting boundary-dispute-proof housing, so perhaps it should be made a legal requirement for developers to carry out as-built surveys and to use these for conveyancing and land registration.

Within the present system, professional advisors can at an early stage encourage the protagonists to take a more rational view of the dispute and to look at it in more economic terms. If clients and their neighbours can be persuaded at an early stage to commit to an amicable agreement or to mediation or arbitration, then considerable time, anguish and expense can be saved, Compare such a situation with an admittedly stereotypical boundary dispute between residential neighbours and the advantages are obvious: but it requires that both neighbours are convinced of the benefits for it to work. In the stereotypical boundary dispute between residential properties both parties stand on their principles, engage solicitors, obtain surveyors’ reports, instruct barristers and go to court. The process can take three of four agonising years in which the anxiety may well make at least one of the protagonist very ill. The whole process will cost as much as the protagonists feel compelled to spend, typically between £25,000 and £50,000 each side. At the end of the day, one of the parties is going to lose the case and is likely to be ordered to pay a substantial proportion of the other party’s costs. And all for a narrow strip of land that is probably worth only £1,000.

Contrast this with the stereotypical boundary dispute between two large commercial companies. For operational reasons they cannot contemplate the whole process lasting more than a few weeks. They will also want to minimise the effect of the dispute on their respective company’s bottom line. Their boards will therefore take managerial decisions that minimise the time and cost elements of finding a workable solution to the dispute.

To find out more about how old and historical aerial photos can help you to resolve your boundary dispute, please visit http://www.oldaerialphotos.com.

James

1949 Archive

OldAerialPhotos.com are delighted to announce that we have rediscovered an original 1949 aerial survey of central London.

Hunting Aero Surveys took the survey during the summer of 1949. The imagery displays the capital in the post war period and highlights landmarks under construction, which we now take for granted. Battersea Power Station and the Royal Festival Hall are two of those sites. All the sites were taken as the vertical aerial survey was conducted in two parts. One high scale survey of the County of London followed by one survey of Greater London. If you are interested in the Greater London area, please phone through to the office and a member of the OldAerialPhotos team will be happy to help you. These images are still being scanned and geo-referenced, so unfortunately cannot be viewed online.

The County of London images can now be viewed and bought online through www.OldAerialPhotos.com search facility. The map of the River Thames shows the location of each image that is available to view and buy online for £99. Alternatively, you can call our office and speak with a member of the OldAerialPhotos team on 01530 518528, or email an enquiry to enquiries@oldaerialphotos.com.

Thanks

OldAerialPhotos