I have a shapefile of English wards from ONS.

It is similar to the files available here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/geography/products/census/spatial/2011/index.html except I had to explicitly ask them for ward shapes, for which they have just released census data.

They sent me a shapefile, and I would like a KML. The shapefile lines up perfectly (I use MapWindow GIS to view it) with The other shapefiles in that set, suggesting there is nothing wrong with the coordinates of this one file.

When I convert it to KML, all the coordinates are offset. I use Google Earth to view it, and it does not line up with the other KML files (for example MSOA).

In both cases I am looking at the clipped to the coastline versions. I am specifically looking at Lambeth, and I can see that the border does not line up with the Thames and is in land too far east and and possibly a bit too far south.

To convert from shapefile to KML I have tried PostGIS, a Shape2Earth plugin for MapWindow GIS and an application called shp2kml. In all cases I get the same result.

I have tried converting the Shapefile from BNG to WGS84 then converting that to KML. I also tried converting to ETRS89, and then to WGS84 as suggested in one of the answers here:

Converting from British National Grid (27700) to WGS84 (4326) to Web Mercator (102100)

My prj file looks like this:


Any idea what I am doing wrong?

2 Answers 2


I think you are running into the OSGB36-reprojection shift as described here:

Raster incorrectly reprojected to OSGB(27700)

OSGB36 to WGS84 reprojection 'error'

There are a few reprojection methods around, with more ore less accuracy. I don't know what transformation MapWindowGIS uses. Late versions of QGIS and GDAL do it right by now.

  • Thanks, it looks like that was the problem. I installed Quantum GIS and the conversion looks okay now. Thanks a lot.
    – zod
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 12:16

I have run into the same problem using QGIS today. Whilst I appreciate that it's late to answer I thought this might help.

My KML (WGS84) layers, which were exported from an OSGB (ESPG:27700) Shapefile were all offset to WSW by 3 - 5 Metres.

I managed to work around this by exporting to GeoJSON (WGS84) and then exporting the GeoJSON layer to KML format.

Hope this helps someone who, like me, comes across this question in their desperate Googling!

  • How did you work around it? Did you programmatically add/subtract 4 metres from every point? Or did the conversion to GeoJSON just work better?
    – zod
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 9:53
  • Hi Zod. Thankfully I didn't need to add/subtract at all. Just Save as>GeoJSON + WGS84. Then Save As>KML. This process still results in a 0.808mm shift to the SE - but I can live with >1mm! I don't know why conversion direct to KML produces this error.
    – GOwen
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 12:26
  • Have just done a bit more reading up. I wonder whether the projection transformation process differs when exporting to different file formats? A bit of interesting reading on the subject here: dragons8mycat.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/…
    – GOwen
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:16

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