Validating vat numbers
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In the case of London, some of the densely-populated central districts are further divided by means of an extra letter at the end of the outward code.
But you might sometimes need to work with a table in which the postcodes are embedded in another column - typically, the last line of the address.The digit indicates the sector; the letters show the unit.The unit within the sector represents a very small area, typically containing just 12 - 15 addresses. But it's really not that bad when you consider that there are only six possible patterns for a valid postcode (see Table 1).But it contains over 27 million records, and is subject to strict licensing and copyright controls.You can access it by purchasing specialized software, but that's a costly option.It returns the starting position of the pattern within the string, or zero if the pattern is not found.
In this case, we call PATINDEX() six times per row, once for each of the possible postcode patterns.
There are also a few special-purpose codes that don't follow these rules.
They include GIR 0AA (the former National Girobank) and SAN TA1 (a special code for Santa Claus).
One place where you can do that is the Easy Peasy site, where the list is available free of charge.
It comes in the form of a comma-delimited file (handy for opening in Excel) and as a SQL script which generates a table of the codes.
There are around 3,000 outward codes currently in use - compared to more than 27 million full postcodes.