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The inward code assists in the delivery of post within a postal district. The postcode sector is made up of the postcode district, the single space, and the first character of the inward code.
It is between four and six characters long including the single space. The postcode unit is two characters added to the end of the postcode sector.
Each postcode unit generally represents a street, part of a street, a single address, a group of properties, a single property, a sub-section of the property, an individual organisation or for instance Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency a subsection of the organisation.
The level of discrimination is often based on the amount of mail received by the premises or business. A postcode can be validated against a table of all 1.
The following regular expression can be used for the purpose of validation:. All, or part, of one or more postcode districts are grouped into post towns.
In a minority of cases a single number can cover two post towns — for example, the WN8 district includes Wigan and Skelmersdale post towns.
The independent jurisdiction of Sark was assigned a unique postcode prefix GY10 in to differentiate it from Alderney. Sark should have had its own identity back then [when postcodes were adopted in ]".
Some of the British Overseas Territories have their own postcodes or postcode systems:. These were introduced because mail was often sent to the wrong place, e.
Mail from the UK continues to be treated as international, not inland, and sufficient postage must be used. An agreed payment based on volumes is made, year on year.
Other forms of postage are collected at local mail centres, but Heathrow collects those that still get forwarded to them. British Overseas Territories typically have a local or UK government postal system operator see List of postal entities , even if a postal code is assigned by Royal Mail for internal UK routing.
Most postcodes apply to a geographic area but some are used only for routing and cannot be used for navigation or distance-finding.
Non-geographic postcode area BX is used solely for non-geographic addresses, with codes independent of the location of the recipient.
However, Royal Mail sometimes assigns semi- mnemonic postcodes to high-profile organisations. The postcode printed on Business Reply envelopes which do not require a stamp often ends with the letters BR.
Postcodes are used to sort letters to their destination either manually, where sorters use labelled frames, or increasingly with letter-coding systems, where machines assist in sorting.
A long string of "faced" letters i. The associated machine uses the outward codes in these dots to direct bundles of letters into the correct bags for specific delivery offices.
With a machine knowledge of the specific addresses handled by each postal walk at each office, the bundles can be further sorted using the dots of the inward sorting code so that each delivery round receives only its own letters.
The mail bags of letter bundles are sent by road, air or train, and eventually by road to the delivery office. Integrated Mail Processors IMPs read the postcode on the item and translate it into two phosphorous barcodes, unique to the inward and outward parts of the postcode, which the machines subsequently print and read, to sort the mail to the correct outward postcode.
On such items the top phosphorous barcode is the inward part of the code, the bottom is the outward. A newer system of five-digit codes called Mailsort was designed for users who send "a minimum of 4, letter-sized items".
Mailsort users are supplied with a database to allow them to convert from postcodes to Mailsort codes and receive a discount if they deliver mail to the post office split up by Mailsort code.
Users providing outgoing mail sorted by postcode receive no such incentive since postcode areas and districts are assigned using permanent mnemonics, and do not therefore assist with grouping items together into operationally significant blocks.
Walksort [ clarification needed ] was discontinued in May There are approximately 1. Each postcode is divided by a space into two parts.
As mentioned above, the first part is known as a postcode district. Postcode districts with the same one or two letter prefixes are grouped into postcode areas.
The second part of a postcode begins with a single digit which indicates the postcode sector within each district. Postcode areas are also divided into several post towns , which predate the introduction of postcodes, with the London post town uniquely covering more than one postcode area.
As of June , there are postcode areas, 2, postcode districts, 11, postcode sectors, and 1, post towns. But most postcodes are shared by several neighbouring properties, typically covering about 15 addresses.
There are also significant numbers of discontinued terminated codes. Each month some 2, postcodes are created and 2, terminated. The PAF is commercially licenseable and is often incorporated in address management software packages.
The capabilities of such packages allow most addresses to be constructed solely from the postcode and house number. By including the map references of postcodes in the address database, the postcode can be used to pinpoint a postcode area on a map.
PAF is updated daily. A complete list of all current Great Britain postcodes, known as Code-Point Open, has been made available online since 1 April by Ordnance Survey.
The Code-Point Open list includes median coordinates for each postcode but excludes postcodes in Northern Ireland and the Crown dependencies.
A further difference is that non-current postcodes, and dates of introduction and withdrawal of postcodes are included. While postcodes were introduced to expedite the delivery of mail, they are useful tools for other purposes, particularly because codes are very fine-grained and identify just a few addresses.
The phrase " postcode lottery " refers to the variation in the availability of services by region, though not always because of postcodes. For these and related reasons, postcodes in some areas have become indicators of social status.
Some residents have campaigned to change their postcode to associate themselves with a more desirable area,  to disassociate with a poorer area  or to be associated with an area with a lower cost of living.
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