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I have a dataset of companies, where one of the variables is its postcode. I want to link this postcode to a broader geographical unit. I have shapes file that enables me to map such broader geographical units. But I am not sure how I can do the linking. Clearly, the latter has not way of understanding where postcodes are, so it seems the only way to do this is by actually having a file that links every single postcode to the geographical unit of interest (as it seems to be done for ZIP codes for the US, e.g. here and here). Unfortunately, I have not found such dataset for the UK.

Is there another way to produce the link that I am looking for?

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There are a number of open datasets which link a postcode to a "broader geographical unit". The best dataset for the purpose depends on which "broader geographical unit" you are after.

The below list should cover most of the more common requirements:

ONS Postcode Directory

  • County
  • Local authority
  • Electoral ward
  • Country
  • Region
  • Westminster parliamentary constituency
  • European electoral region
  • NUTS and LAU codes
  • Census output areas
  • Parish

Ordnance Survey Open Names

  • Populated place
  • Postcode district
  • Region
  • Country

Wikipedia: List of postcode districts in the United Kingdom

  • Post town

Open Postcode Geo

  • Postcode area
  • Postcode district
  • Postcode sector
  • Outcode
  • Country
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It sounds like you need OS Code-Point which will map from PostCode to X, Y point, NHS authority and administrative unit codes.

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Found it! The UK Data Service has files containing every single postcode and the broader geographical boundaries to which it belongs, including:

  • Constituencies
  • Wards
  • Travel to work areas
  • Parishes
  • Local Educational Authority
  • Local Health authorities
  • European Electoral Regions
  • Government Office Regions
  • Standard Statistical Regions
  • Census workplace zones

More details can be found in the User Guides (link for February 2015 edition).

  • This is the ONS Postcode Directory. Other datasets exist with additional geographical units which are not included in the ONS Postcode Directory, see my answer for more details. – Dan Winchester Oct 18 '17 at 11:15

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