EA buys same flood risk map as NU, ending tension

A row that has been simmering between the Environment Agency (EA) and the insurance industry over flood mapping is set to end.

The EA has acquired the same flood map of Great Britain that Norwich Union (NU) commissioned from mapping specialist Intermap.

In May, insurers criticised flood maps produced by the EA that were meant to help underwriters price risks for household cover.

Insurers criticised the maps for lack of detail and for being two-dimensional - there was no co-ordinate for height.

Meanwhile NU had commissioned a £3m project to radar map the entire country in three dimensions. It also used consultant hydrologists Jeremy Benn and HR Wallingford to add data to the maps to show risk of flooding.

According to NU special projects pricing manager Jill Boulton, it had taken longer than expected to produce the bald earth model (with trees and buildings removed) with which hydrologists like to work.

Now, said Boulton, the map is ready for use. She added that half the country will be covered by the map for use in pricing decisions by September and that the rest of the country would be ready by the middle of next year.

Boulton said that pilot studies in Wales and Shrewsbury (see picture) had shown many houses that had previously been thought to be bad flood risks were in fact satisfactory.

She said that when applied to the rest of the country, "hundreds of thousands of properties would be released".

Boulton said that the map only covers river flood currently. But, she added, plans are being drawn up to look at coastal and flash-flooding models.