Here's a few useful resources that can help when researching places to go and explore and when planning your explore.
Google Maps / Google Earth
The most common resource used by a lot of Urban Explorers is Google Maps / Google Earth. Google maps can simply be used in any web browser or is available as an app for android/iOS and gives you fairly good quality detailed aerial imagery of most of the UK. If you have a Google account you can also save 'Map Pins' to a map marking places of interest and share these with other people. A lot of explorers have shared Google maps marking out places they want to explore.
Google Earth does a similar thing, but you get more features with Google Earth. Google Earth is a program for the PC/Mac or an App for your phone. It uses the same imagery as Google maps, but gives you more options of what you can do with it. It needs more resources than Google maps however. One of the main things this distinguishes Google Earth from Google maps os the ability to view historical aerial imagery with Google Earth.
Finding out information on the plans for a building can sometimes be a time consuming process, especially if you don't really know how to go about it. Every councils planning site works a bit differently and sometimes it can be tricky to know which council or authority you even need to be looking at. However, some time spent looking through the planning information can yield a lot of information including detailed building and site plans and even written descriptions of the features on a site.
The best place to start is the Planning Portal where you can find out which planning authority you need to be searching. To get the correct details, you will require a post code or full address for the site you are interested in.
From there, you should find a link to that authorities planning page where you can then search for detailed information on the site you are interested in. The planning information is best searched on a PC or mac as a lot of the information that is useful is held in PDF format which can be difficult to read on a phone or tablet. The section to pay attention to is the attached documents, as this is where you are likely to find information which could be useful.
Searching the planning databases is a bit of an art as sometimes the useful information is tucked away in the most obscure planning applications. My advice is to look through all applications that have ever been made for a particular site, and sometimes you will turn up some absolutely brilliant information. Other times however there is nothing of any use at all, it all depends on a particular sites history.
Building at risk registers
Historic England maintain a number of registers of heritage and buildings at risk which can prove useful sources of information for those looking for places to explore. You may have to plough through lots of information here, but sometimes you can turn up real gems by spending a bit of time browsing the register.
Old OS Maps
Old OS maps is a great resource allowing you to look at historical OS maps for a particular area in the UK (if one exists.) This can be useful for locating places that may have existed in the past, but are no longer visibly there and things like old mine shafts etc. There's also a handy overlay between old OS maps and Google maps on the second link. This can be dead useful when used with the satellite view to locate features on the map on the actual landscape.
Ordnance Survey Mapping
You can browse ordnance survey maps for free on your PC or tablet on the OS website. Various levels of detail are available depending on what level you zoom into. Very useful tool.
Where's that path?
A handy side-by-side view of OS maps and Google maps imagery. Again can be dead handy to match up features on a map with where you actually are in the landscape.
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Edited by Maniac