London: Spy maps of Britain compiled by the Soviet Union during the Cold War contain such a wealth of information that a digital mapping firm has bought them for use by property developers.
Landmark Information Group said the maps not only provided a fascinating historical insight but hold data that could show if sites were at risk of environmental contamination or subsidence.
“They detailed the heights of bridges, the widths of roads and a vast array of information about buildings and whether they were flammable or fireproof,” said Richard Pawlyn, managing director of Landmark’s property and environment division.
“It’s clear that this was about how to guide tanks into British cities if that ever were an issue,” he told BBC Radio.
The maps show dockyards, prisons, warehouses, quarries and factories with details of what they produced. They plot not just major cities but even rural towns.
“At the time they were more up to date than any available maps,” John Davies, a collector and expert on Soviet maps, told Reuters. “This was all original survey, presumably by aerial surveillance to start with, and then filling in the details from on the ground.”
He said the maps were just part of a global project undertaken by the Soviet Union. The once-secret documents began to emerge in the West after Communism collapsed.
Landmark said it had bought the maps for an undisclosed sum from EastView Cartographic, a US firm.