Postcode and Geolocation API for the UK

While working with UK geographical data I often have to extract geolocation information about the UK postcodes. A convenient way to do it in R is to use geocode function from the ggmap package. This function provides latitude and longitude information using Google Maps API. This is very useful for mapping data points but doesn’t provide information about UK-specific administrative division.
I got fed up of merging my list of postcodes with a long list of corresponding wards etc., so I looked for smarter ways of getting this info.
That’s how I came across http://postcodes.io/ which is free, open source, and based solely on open data. This service is an API to geolocate UK postcode and provide additional administrative information. Full documentation explains in details many available options. Among geographic information you can pull using postcodes.io are:

    Postcode
    Eastings
    Northings
    Strategic
    County
    District
    Ward
    Longitude
    Latitude
    Westminster Parliamentary Constituency
    European Electoral Region (EER)
    Primary Care Trust (PCT)
    Parish (England)/ community (Wales)
    LSOA
    MSOA
    CCG
    NUTS
    ONS/GSS Codes

I conduct most of my analyses in R so I developed wrapper functions around the API. The beta version of the PostcodesioR package can be found on GitHub. It’s still a bit buggy, doesn’t support optional arguments but should do the job in most cases. Beta reference manual is here.

A mini-vignette (more to follow) showing how to run a lookup on a postcode, turn the result into a data frame, and then create an interactive map with leaflet:

The code above produces a data frame with key information

> glimpse(pc_df)
Observations: 1
Variables: 28
$ postcode EC1Y 8LX
$ quality 1
$ eastings 532544
$ northings 182128
$ country England
$ nhs_ha London
$ longitude -0.09092237
$ latitude 51.52252
$ parliamentary_constituency Islington South and Finsbury
$ european_electoral_region London
$ primary_care_trust Islington
$ region London
$ lsoa Islington 023D
$ msoa Islington 023
$ incode 8LX
$ outcode EC1Y
$ admin_district Islington
$ parish Islington, unparished area
$ admin_county NA
$ admin_ward Bunhill
$ ccg NHS Islington
$ nuts Haringey and Islington
$ admin_district E09000019
$ admin_county E99999999
$ admin_ward E05000367
$ parish E43000209
$ ccg E38000088
$ nuts UKI43

and an interactive map showing geocoded postcode as a blue dot:

Brexit referendum and the housing market

One of my latest tasks at work was to analyse data related to Brexit referendum results and the UK housing market.
Luckily, all but rental data (acquired from Zoopla) was publicly available. Property prices and rental prices needed some wrangling as Land Registry doesn’t provide information about Local Authority districts, and that was the unit used by The Electoral Commission. LA districts are not a default geographic category in Tableau (version 9.3.5) but the official blog has recently featured a post demonstrating how to use non-standard mapping.

The final result was a map (below) and a press release. This is another housing market analysis that gained a lot of media coverage, among others by International Business Times, Business Insider, and Mortgage Introducer.

I wanted to dig deeper into the relationship between the voting pattern and the housing market information so I created the following bar charts:

Once the data is visualised in this way it becomes rather obvious that the areas where house prices and the capital gains (yearly average, in the last six years) were the highest, were also the ones that were the most likely to vote remain. The situation is much more difficult to interpret when the the results are sorted by the rental yields. In that case the voting pattern is not that clear anymore.

The scatter plots (and overlapping trend lines) make it easier to see the positive correlation between the percentage of people voting remain and the following variables: median house price (2016), median rental price (2016), and capital gains (yearly, across 2010-2016). This means that as the percentage of remain voters increases, so do the variables mentioned. This relationship did not hold for rental yields where it doesn’t seem to be any relationship between the two.

The Guardian and BBC conducted similar analyses comparing voting patterns to demographic variables.