UK: Norwich Union's revolutionary flood map begins roll-out

More than 600,000 properties* in flood risk areas could now qualify for insurance thanks to the launch of a revolutionary flood map of the UK.

The new digital map, developed by Norwich Union, is the largest and most accurate ever undertaken in Britain and is being used to pinpoint the risk of river flooding to individual properties.

And for the five million people living or working in flood risk areas** across the UK, this means more accurate premiums and a better understanding of the risk to their property.

Norwich Union is one of the first insurers to set premiums based on a particular address rather than just a postcode band, for both residential and commercial properties. As well as showing whether a property is at risk, the map shows how often a flood is likely to occur and to what depth.

The multi-million pound project is initially launching in parts of Shropshire and Norfolk and will be rolled out across the UK, starting with high-risk flood areas. It is anticipated that the project will be completed by the end of 2004.

Shropshire has been selected as a key launch area following the devastating floods of October 2000 and ongoing flood risk. Norfolk was chosen because of the continued risk to properties on low-lying land.

And the insurer believes that more people are likely to benefit from the flood map because in some cases it may indicate that their property isn’t in fact at risk or won’t flood as often as previously thought.

Laurence Loughnane, head of underwriting at Norwich Union, said: "Although insurance companies can’t stop properties being flooded, we believe we have a responsibility to ensure flood risk is calculated as accurately as possible. Norwich Union has been leading the flooding education and lobbying programme over the past few years and has always been striving for better information about the risk to homes and businesses, and this project represents our further commitment.

"Because of the level of detail provided by the map, people who previously thought their property was uninsurable could now obtain cover. The ability to pinpoint whether an individual house is on a hill or raised ground, and how floodwaters will flow, is invaluable in the fight against flood damage. The new information will help to convey to customers just how severe the flooding risk to their property will be and how often a flood can be expected."

In the past, one of the major obstacles to better flood prediction has been the lack of detailed and accurate information on the height of land surrounding rivers. The Norwich Union flood map has been specially commissioned to make use of the latest technology to help tackle this obstacle.

Norwich Union worked with Intermap to collect data using an airborne radar system, to produce the Digital Elevation Model – which shows the height of the ground above sea level. This was combined with a software model provided by JBA Consulting to produce the final map showing where floods are likely to occur, how they can spread and how far they can extend.

Gill Holland, operations director for the National Flood Forum, said: "New data that better informs people about the risks of flooding is essential. The mapping will not prevent the emotional stress and trauma caused by actual floods, but will help those communities where only a small number of houses and businesses are affected by flooding, but the entire postcode area has effectively been denied insurance."

"When you consider that more than Ł200 billion of property, land and assets are at risk of flooding, the need for accurate and detailed information is crucial. The wetter winters that are predicted as a result of climate change may double the frequency of inland floods within the next fifty years."

Information from the flood map will be used to make changes to existing customers’ premiums as their policies are renewed. New customers should call Norwich Union Direct on 0800 092 9561 or speak to their insurance broker. More information about the flood map is available by e-mailing floodmap@norwich-union.co.uk.

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Download the presentation of the digital flood map

Media contacts:
Charlotte Speedy, Matt Buchanan or Charlotte Ruddlesdin at QBO Bell Pottinger on: 020 7861 2424
Liz Kennett at Norwich Union on 01603 688 263 or 07801 901 666

Notes to editors:

*Figure = Estimate of how many more properties that Norwich Union believes it can offer insurance to in future due to information from the flood map.

** Environment Agency

Norwich Union is a sponsor of the Ideal Home Show, which is taking place at Earls Court, London from 10 March to 14 April 2004.

Further information about:

Intermap

  • Intermap is building an unprecedented database, called NEXTMap, of highly accurate digital topographic maps (including elevation). Customers purchase Intermap's high-quality, low cost data to facilitate better decision-making for numerous commercial, governmental, military and consumer applications.

JBA Consulting

  • JBA Consulting undertakes specialised work on flood defence management, river engineering and geographical information systems throughout the UK and overseas.

HR Wallingford

  • HR Wallingford is the leading specialist organisation in the UK for hydraulics in civil engineering. HR Wallingford developed the method for predicting flood levels for the flood mapping which has been implemented by JBA Consulting.
  • The Norwich Union flood map was verified by HR Wallingford.

Norwich Union

  • Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer with a market share of around 14 per cent. With a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses, Norwich Union insures:
    • one in five households
    • one in seven motor vehicles
    • more than 800,000 businesses
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of images are available on the Aviva internet press centre at /media
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast - call the press office on 01603 683820