Norwich Union's new flood map 'a gimmick'

William Kay
Saturday 28 February 2004 01:00

The flood map of Britain to be unveiled by Norwich Union next week has been dismissed by an industry expert as a publicity gimmick.

Norwich Union has been working for two years on this project, which is designed to produce more accurate data than its postcode-based method of assessing the vulnerability of an address to floods. Greater accuracy should mean fairer flood insurance premiums.

"It will lead to financially lower risk for Norwich Union," said the independent source, who asked not to be named, "but I feel it's a publicity gimmick. The Government's Environment Agency is upgrading its flood risk maps in September anyway, and that is based on the same information."

The company and the agency have drawn on mapping by the same airborne radar exercise, in which a Lear jet has produced a portfolio of pictures showing detailed contours. In both cases the data was supplied by an American company, Intermap Technologies.

A series of costly floods in recent years has led to insurers withdrawing cover, thereby losing business. Government forecasts suggest that flooding will become ten times more frequent by the end of this century. The Environment Agency, part of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has a digital terrain model which shows one per cent and 10 per cent probabilities of flooding. This is to be enhanced in September by a National Flood Risk Assessment, which will calculate the likelihood of flooding in areas as small as 100 metres by 100 metres, taking into account the state of local flood defences.

The Norwich Union project, details of which are being released on Wednesday, promises to show the vulnerability of individual houses to flooding. However, More Than, part of Royal SunAlliance, said that it already had a "red, amber, green" system which identified postcodes and house numbers. It is based on layers of topographical, geological and geographic detail.

Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, said: "A number of insurers are working on their own initiative in this area. We have been lobbying Government for up-to-date information."

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