Monday, 31 March 2014

Flood Repair and Renew Grants for homeowners and businesses

On 12th February 2014, the Prime Minister announced a new scheme to provide grants of up to £5,000 to homeowners and businesses that had been flooded. The repair and renew grant is being provided to fund additional flood resilience or resistance measures for homes and businesses that have been flooded since 1st December 2013.

This is a one-off scheme to cover needs arising from the flooding of winter 2013-14. Alongside this announcement the Government is continuing to work with the insurance industry to consider how resilient repair could be funded and targeted in the future in the context of developing proposals for Flood Re, the proposed solution for affordable flood insurance for domestic properties, in order to ensure that high-risk households are supported to prepare for severe weather and flooding in the future.

The grants go live on 1st April 2014

The aim is that the application process should be simple. In the first instance, people should contact their local authority (usually the District Council) who will operate the scheme locally providing advice on how they will take it forward.

The grant is intended to cover the additional cost of making a property more resilient to flooding (that is, the amount above the cost of standard repairs that an insurance company will pay for) as it is reinstated. It is not to cover any losses by the householder, it is not compensation for being flooded nor is to cover the ‘excess’ element of an insurance policy. Furthermore, the grant will not cover repairs to annexes, outhouses, garages or other such buildings. 

The application form will have a list of suggested measures.  People may find it useful to consult their insurer/loss adjuster as they start the repair process to see what type of additional work could be combined with the standard repairs that the insurer is funding.

If this is not possible, the Property Protection Adviser or the National Flood Forum will give an indication of the type and costs or measures people could install and they should use this when they submit their application to the local authority. For more advice, the ‘Homeowners Guide to Flood Resilience’, developed by the Know Your Flood Risk Campaign, will give you a full list of the range of products available coupled with useful case studies. It is well worth visiting the Flood Protection Association website which contains a list of approved members who supply and fit flood protection products.

For terraced property and in other situations where it is beneficial to do so, people may collaborate in how they use individual grants (consulting their Local Authority first) to protect their properties.

If people wish to have an independent survey prior to starting work to see what is necessary, or have the completed work validated for their insurer through a Flood Risk Report,  people are advised  to talk to the Local Authority before making any commitments.


Mary Dhonau, OBE

Chief Executive, Know Your Flood Risk campaign

Friday, 28 March 2014

Landmark takes part in the National Apprenticeship Week

With 11 great apprentices on board, Landmark carries out a number of supportive activities.
By Sarosh Khalid

National Apprenticeship Week (3-7 March) now in its seventh consecutive year, proposes to raise awareness around the successful scheme of apprenticeships and to help build a positive impact amongst employers, individuals, teachers, parents, media and the wider community. As most employers took turn in participating in this year’s National Apprenticeship week carrying out various activities, we also got a chance to showcase our Apprentices experiences, thought and values here at Landmark. In support of the positive scheme, Landmark Information Group has taken on 11 successful apprentices in various departments including Finance, Sales, Marketing, IT, Data and Customer Services to ensure the bright future for the younger generation.

Taking our turn in the National Apprentice Week, we took part in various shadowing activities across all offices including Exeter and Reading and delivered great insights into the working ways of Landmark.

Emily Stephens and Aidan Richards, both working in Exeter as Apprentices within the Finance department reported back how they felt about their shadowing activity and what they made of their day away from their desks. They looked at finance organisation charts and spoke about current job roles, what they did previously and what they would like to do in the future. Emily said: “The day was more interesting than I thought it would be! It’s really nice to see where my work comes into play with the rest of the team’s job roles”. The pair who are always so enthusiastic about working here at Landmark, summarised that the Shadowing activity helped them decide to go into future Finance and Management Accountant roles.

Whilst this took place, other apprentices sat in on meetings discussing their division and additional product knowledge. Jack Sheppard and Daniel Butler, both bright Systems Apprentices sat in with the CTO, Ian Clarke as they spoke with members of the recent acquisitions. Jack joined Landmark nearly a year ago in May 2013 and says: “I was eager to see how other aspects of the company operate and this meeting gave me the perfect opportunity to experience this”.

Similarly, to gain a better understanding of the company, we had Jay Cardona-Martin and Farouq Sulaiman travel up to Birmingham to take part in the Monthly Sales meeting with all the regional account managers. Jay and Farouq, both Sales Apprentices primarily working in Environment & Mapping had the opportunity to listen in on product development aspects and understand the pre-planning and level of detail that goes into all Landmark products within the Legal Division. Farouq felt he learnt a great deal more and said: “The amount of discussion and ideas in the meeting were brilliant. We understood the different approach needed for the clients in comparison to Environment & Mapping and became aware of what other activities that are taking place in terms of social media”.

Charlotte Smith and Aaron Manley, our newest Data apprentices joined Landmark early this year in January and have comfortably settled in with their teams. They shadowed Bob Maskell, Customer Service Manager, as he gave them background information on the company and slightly more insight on Landmark Solutions. Charlotte said: “We learnt that Landmark sell historic maps and an Act that was introduced in 1976 actually kicked off Landmark selling maps”. As Charlotte and Aaron understood the ground commitments of their area they were also being informed about the different contracts they will be dealing with.

I went into London to attend the Voice of Apprenticeships Conference to see how the status of apprenticeships could be changed. I came across some very powerful ideas and left with Matthews Hancock’s statement: “The best people to talk about apprenticeships are apprentices themselves”. The conference allowed me to voice my opinions on apprenticeship with other apprentices within the room as we collectively addressed all issues.

As the National Apprentice Week came to an end, we heard back from all apprentices about how they felt in their roles and received excellent feedback. Jack said: “Overall I would rate the experience highly as it gave me a greater understanding into how different businesses achieve their goals” along with Aaron: “Thank you Bob for his time and the organisers of the day as it was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about our company and its day to day organisation”.

In return it was great to hear that Landmark values its apprentices’ contributions. As much as we think we are learning from them, Landmark learns from us every day, as Ian Clarke, Chief Technology Officer, eloquently stated “For me, it’s about finding and developing talent and giving people an opportunity.”

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

It’s raining sinkholes!

Whether or not you believe that climate change is occurring, the last decade or so has shown some significant changes in rainfall patterns in the central and southern parts of the country. These changes have influenced ground instability resulting in the recent spate of “sinkholes” that occurred in February.

Looking back at the rainfall statistics ( it is apparent that since 2000 the mean annual rainfall figures in southern and central areas have increased. In the past there were some notable ground collapses in the early and mid 2000s when intensive rainstorms locally produced rainfall of over 50% to 100% higher than usual. Higher than average rainfall was also a feature of 2008 to 2010. By contrast 2011 was a much drier year than normal and this pattern continued into early 2012. During this time few ground collapses were taking place.

As 2012 progressed rainfall greatly increased from April onwards producing a wetter than average year. 2013 also started with average rainfall interspersed with drier months but got wetter during the autumn to winter period, continuing into the very wet months of January (>200% above average) and February (>270% above average) this year. The cumulative effect of the rainfall reflects the incidence rate of subsidence as follows:

·        - 7 subsidences in 12 months in 2012
·        - 17 subsidences in 12 months in 2013
·       - 13 subsidences in just 2 months in 2014

Size isn’t everything!
Fortunately in Britain ground collapse is rare and not as dramatic as examples from places like Florida, South Africa, Guatamala or China, but even so the holes can be reasonably large and dangerous. In late December a collapse over old mine workings at Foolow, Derbyshire produced a hole about 50m across and 40m deep. This occurred in a rural area but only endangered local sheep and walkers! By contrast a number of smaller holes that occurred further south in February caused alarm to residents and structural damage – fortunately none of it causing injury!

·         At Walter’s Ash, High Wycombe, a hole (circa 4.5m diameter, 9m deep) swallowed a VW Lupo car parked on the drive outside a house

·         At Upper Basildon, near Reading, a hole (circa 3m diameter, 3m deep) opened up beneath a car as it travelled along a driveway, but luckily the vehicle spanned across the hole allowing the family to get out safe

·         At Hemel Hempstead, another hole (circa 10m diameter, 6m deep) appeared below housing causing significant structural damage and evacuation of residents

·         At Nettlebed, Oxon, a fourth hole (circa 5m diameter, 6m deep) occurred within woodland, needing fencing off to secure it safely

·         At Gillingham, Kent, a large hole (4m diameter, 9m deep) formed within the grounds of a school

Since the collapses occurred some of the holes have been backfilled with foamed concrete to make them safe while ground investigations are carried out to determine their cause. Over 200m³ (or 20 concrete lorry loads) of foamed concrete were used to infill the holes at each of Hemel Hempstead and Gillingham.

What is a sinkhole?
Strictly speaking a sinkhole is a collapse of ground over a naturally formed void at depth. They occur where the ground below the surface has been dissolved away – they are typically found in areas underlain by chalk, limestone, gypsum and salt. In southern and eastern England, sinkholes are associated with areas where sand, gravel and clay layers overlie chalk. PBA is currently investigating and stabilising several sinkholes on chalk where structural damage has occurred in areas like Reading, Marlow, Maidenhead, Beaconsfield, the Chalfonts, Grays and Hertford. The recent collapse in Ripon, underlain by soluble gypsum, is another example of a sinkhole that caused significant structural damage.

However, many of the recently formed holes are suspected to have originated as a result of ground collapse over man-made voids in the ground i.e. mine workings. This type of collapse is referred to as a “crown hole”. There are large numbers of unrecorded historical mine workings across the country, liable to intermittent subsidence depending upon weather or leaking drains that reveal their presence each year. PBA is currently investigating possible mined ground and collapses at Gillingham, Nettlebed, Upper Basildon, Hemel Hempstead and Chalkhouse Green.

Solutions for sinkholes
After backfilling the sinkhole to prevent it enlarging either a series of exploratory holes are drilled into the ground at close centres around the feature or the surrounding ground can be surveyed using geophysics. Geophysical survey techniques that can be useful, subject to conditions, include microgravity, resistivity, conductivity and GPR. Depending upon the setting investigation techniques such as dynamic probing or rotary drilling may be used. The aim of the work is to be able to create a 3D ground model of the cause of the collapse at depth in order to design a suitable remedial stabilisation scheme. Remedial stabilisation techniques used from the surface can include grouting (using cement and/or resin), soil reinforcement (geogrid installation), piling, capping and excavation/replacement. Sometimes safe access into the collapsing void can be achieved and the infilling or reinforcement works can be carried out in situ.

What action should conveyancing solicitors take?
Given the potential impact on a property, ground instability risk is clearly something for which conveyancing solicitors should be checking as part of their due diligence process. Landmark’s environmental reports – both residential and commercial – all contain data from multiple sources (both manmade such as mining and underlying natural conditions) in order to provide a risk screening and next steps. For residential transactions, in the case of the premium SiteSolutions Residence report, a full ground stability risk assessment is included, whereas Homecheck Professional and Envirosearch will highlight risk and suggest the purchase of further, more detailed reports or potentially a surveyor visit should that be appropriate.
If you’d like more information on the risk reports, please contact Landmark Information Group on 0844 844 9966 or email

Blog prepared by Dr Clive Edmonds, Peter Brett Associates LLP, a leading specialist in the recording, investigation and stabilisation of geohazards and Landmark Information Group.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Understanding Groundwater and its role in flooding

What is groundwater and why is it a problem?
Rainfall runs off into rivers and the sea, evaporates, and percolates into permeable ground to recharge aquifers.  These processes are collectively known as the water cycle, and the part that flows underground is called groundwater.  It normally re-emerges at springs and into river beds and can keep the rivers flowing for months without rainfall.  It is clearly a slower moving part of the system, and flow through rocks is often a hundred times slower than surface flows.  It is better to think of flow through a permeable sponge rather than the popular conception of underground rivers or lakes, although in extreme cases such as karstic limestone groundwater may have dissolved channels to become fast flowing underground rivers, and the Chalk in England tends to have fast flow in fissures, which explains why Chalk areas suffer most of the UK’s highest groundwater flood risk.

After a large rainfall event we see surface water flood where it exceeds local drainage capacity and may pond for a short time, and also high river levels leading to flood plain inundation, but these will recede in a few hours or days.  Because groundwater moves so slowly the rainfall tends to accumulate over the winter months leading to seasonal peak levels in the spring and lows in the autumn (rainfall is actually distributed quite evenly through the year on average in Britain, and it is the low evaporation in the colder winter months that leaves more water for run off and recharge).  This means that groundwater flooding also generally peaks in the spring.
Under average conditions the zones where groundwater discharges to the surface or river channels are well defined, but after high rainfall the flows will emerge in different places to cause groundwater flooding.  Just as flows are slower than rivers, once flooding occurs it will recede a lot more slowly too, leading to flooding for far longer (3 months is not unusual).  It is harder to observe the processes that lead to groundwater flooding than those that happen on the surface, so uncertainties are significantly greater.  However, a reasonable understanding can be achieved once the available evidence is put into a coherent framework for how the system works (known as the conceptual model).
So, groundwater flooding occurs when sub-surface water emerges from the ground at the surface or into Made Ground and structures.  This may be as a result of persistent rainfall that recharges aquifers until they are full; or may be as a result of high river levels, or tides, driving water through near-surface deposits. Groundwater flooding is characterised by:
  • Water flows to the surface or into basements, services ducts and other subsurface infrastructure rising up through floors or directly from the ground. This may be seen as diffuse seepage from the ground, as emergence of new springs or as an increase in spring flows
  • Flooding may last a long time compared to surface water flooding, from weeks to months. Hence the amount of damage that is caused to property may be substantially higher. Likewise closures of access routes, roads, railways etc may be prolonged
  • Flooding may occur with a delay following periods of high rainfall rather than immediately during storms
  • Emergent groundwater tends to be clear and relatively clean compared to muddy fluvial flood waters, but contamination by sewers and brownfield sites poses additional hazards
  • Groundwater flooding or a shallow water table prevents rainfall infiltration and increases the risk of surface water flooding.  This means that many surface floods are actually driven by groundwater conditions.  But consideration of surface water in isolation and lack of evidence for groundwater conditions leads to incorrect analysis of overall causes.
It is also important to understand that surface water, rivers, groundwater and other factors all interact in permeable catchments, contributing to overall flood risk.
Whilst groundwater flooding is generally less hazardous to human health than surface flooding, it is more hazardous to property producing 2 to 4 times the damage to building fabric and greater disruption to economic activity due to the longer duration of flood events. Also, the impact may be less about surface water depths or velocities and more about the extended saturation of the shallow subsurface with the following consequences:
1.            Damage to basements and other structures below ground
2.            Damage to infrastructure such as buried services and ducts
3.            Sewer flooding
4.            Water damage to property, cultural heritage, crops or sensitive habitats due to saturated conditions
5.            Leaching of contamination from brownfield sites and other sources of contamination
6.            Increased likelihood, intensity and duration of surface water flooding due to saturated ground conditions
7.            Increased cost of construction projects, which will need to incorporate preventive groundwater control measures to prevent what would otherwise cause harm.
This winter has seen the highest rainfall on record, leading to the highest groundwater levels and therefore record groundwater flooding and groundwater driven surface water flooding.  The Environment Agency has reported that 24% of flooding incidents are categorised as groundwater flooding.  Given that flooding will often appear as a surface event it is no surprise that groundwater flooding is under-reported, so the full extent of the problem will be bigger than this.  Furthermore, it is helpful to understand that groundwater will interact with the other parts of the water cycle described above so that flooding events will often have some groundwater component, and even where flooding may appear to be a simple result of the overtopping of a river bank, the consequences will be more severe in those parts of the flood plain that are permeable because of the longer time it will take for the flooding problems to recede.  For example, with the River Thames flooding events of February 2014 it is those areas such as the Chalk winterbournes, Oxford and Wraysbury where the consequences will tend to be excacerbated by long duration as the groundwater system slowly recedes.  Because risk is a combination of likelihood and consequences we can see that overall risk associated with the permeable parts of catchments will have higher risks, even if these are associated with river water driven events rather than pure groundwater emergence.
Current groundwater problems will continue for several months, but if we see a return to average rainfall from now on, the more extreme events will recede to more normal levels in a few weeks.  However, now that the system is ‘primed’, further wet periods will lead to more rapid groundwater flooding.  On the plus side, this year is giving us excellent data to further improve the models and future predictive capability!  With careful consideration of groundwater flooding risks it will be possible to plan better land development to avoid problems in the future. 
Landmark in partnership with ESI will be incorporating groundwater flood risk data into a wide range of its risk assessment reports including Homecheck Flood, Envirosearch Residential, SiteSolutions Residential, Sitecheck Combined, SiteSolutions Commerical and SiteSolutions Combined. 
ESI is building an extensive national database to help improve knowledge of groundwater flooding and we are keen to hear from you if you have any incident to report or information on where our map can be improved.   We are also pleased to help if you are facing groundwater flooding issues, and give a free initial consultation, so please do not hesitate to get in touch on

Glossary of Terms
Groundwater is water that normally resides in the subsurface; it fills the pore spaces within rocks

Groundwater flooding is defined as the emergence of groundwater at the surface or into Made Ground or infrastructure away from perennial surface water bodies

An aquifer is a body of rock containing water that is sufficiently permeable to allow significant amounts of groundwater flow.  Principal aquifers in the UK are limestones (including Chalk) and sandstones

The water table is an irregular surface that generally resembles a gentler version of the overlying ground surface. It rises when recharge adds more water to the ground, and falls when drought reduces the recharge

Recharge is rainfall that has not been evaporated, used by plants or run off to streams; and has got through the soil zone into an aquifer

Permeability is a measure of how easily water can flow through a rock: aquifers are highly permeable, clays are not

Risk is defined (consistent with the Flood and Water Management Act 2010) as ‘a risk in respect of an occurrence assessed and expressed (as for insurance and scientific purposes) as a combination of the probability of the occurrence with its potential consequences. In each case the potential harmful consequences to be considered in assessing risk include, in particular, consequences for
(a)human health
(b)the social and economic welfare of individuals and communities
(d)the environment (including cultural heritage).

Landmark’s data team solve latest OS mapping mystery

Celia Craven, a key part of Landmark’s data team, recently solved a mystery surrounding an unrecognised symbol on an OS map, alerted to us by one of our clients.  The symbol (※) seemed to have no objective reference in historic map legends and subsequent googling only lead to more misinformation. 

It seemed like there would be no resolution…until Celia got her hands on the mapping.

The mapping in the area is derived, as Mr Peter Hobby from Ordnance Survey informed Landmark, from multiple map sheets. Using this information, combined with the indication that these are hand-drawn annotations, Celia was able to analyse the area logically to and determined the potential nature of the symbol. The addition of line features to distinguish map sheets from one another was also useful in this instance, both as a visual aid and a significant clue.

If we consider the nature of surveying and the methods applied to this process (historically at least) we can hazard an informed guess that the symbols are indicators of field area values where only partial elements of the field were available to the surveyor.

An example of this is depicted below – the coloured partial field object contains the mystery symbol. The line cutting through the map indicates the boundary of a map-sheet.

The red polygon and the symbol (with associated value) conform to the measure of the field only as it’s depicted on the southernmost map-sheet.  Perhaps the surveyor at the time was not able to measure the full extent of the field and was only able to capture the extent of the field as it appeared on their map? We can’t say for certain - that’s just speculation on our behalf.

The northernmost map-sheet and its acreage value (2.971) is for the entire field. The shaded area value (1.198) is for only the field area available on the map-sheet.  Applying this logic to the other areas divided by the map-sheet line is also true.

The original query map corroborates this finding as it’s divided by four map-sheet divisions.  Here we can see a total field measure (3.914 acres) and the partial values in each map-sheet.

The south-western map sheet (from 1918) shows .388 and .128.

The south-eastern map sheet (from 1919) shows a total of 4.112 and a partial value of 2.728.

The north-western and north-eastern maps sheets were surveyed at the same time  (1923) so depict the same value of 3.914.

We can’t say for certain, but it seems the symbol represents a marker for a partial field measure.

Whilst some of us were excited at the prospect of X marking the spot Celia provided the balance of intelligence and logic that resolved the mystery. Whilst there is no buried treasure (seemingly) this minor revelation does indicate something previously hidden to us in the present, the ingenuity and diligence of mapping surveyors and the real-world work carried out by Ordnance Survey and their team of experts. These symbols were marked on maps by an individual, or group of individuals and the results of their work are still visible to this day.

At Landmark, we live and breathe data 24/7 – it’s our DNA after all. If you have any mysteries you need help solving, please contact one of the data team via

Daniel Lewis-Carter
Data Information Co-Ordinator
Landmark Information Group

Friday, 14 March 2014

Voice of apprentices – National Apprenticeship Week.

The best people to tell everyone about apprenticeships are apprentices themselves
By Sarosh Khalid

Now in its seventh consecutive year, National Apprenticeship Week (3-7 March) provides apprentices with the opportunity to collectively share and showcase their achievements, skills and experiences. It is also a significant platform to help raise the awareness and profile of apprenticeships amongst employers, individuals, teachers, parents, media and the wider community.

As a QA apprentice here myself, this week was very important to me and helped highlight the doors that are open for all apprenticeships.

There was no better way for me to share my experiences and express my opinions than to head on down to the ‘The Apprentice Debate’ to express my view, where joined by other QA apprentices, we addressed the current status of Apprenticeships and how significant issues could be resolved. Ben Pike, director of QA training and Matthew Hancock MP, Minister for skills and enterprise both attended as keynote speakers to endorse the opinions and values of the apprentices. Lizzie Moffatt and Andy Fowler, founding members of the IAC, who co-supported the event with EAL, described how apprenticeships changed their lives and why they think apprenticeships should be largely supported.

Ben Pike encouraged apprentices to address their concerns, such as careers information and advice, as well as recommending any improvements. Hancock shared his thoughts: “it needs to become the new norm, that when a learner leaves schools they either go to university or into an apprenticeship”.  He praised the government for funding and fully supporting the system and stated: “all sorts of things are taking place to drive up the registrations for apprenticeships – but employers are needed to come to the table”. The Minister for Skills and Enterprise expressed his view that employers need to promote the value that apprentices bring to their business: “things like IT that were not around 40 years ago are now a huge part of our economy, and apprenticeships are important for ensuring the right skills are in place”.

A recurring topic on the day was the lack of career guidance given to young adults - schools don’t seem to steer towards apprenticeships. Hancock’s response was: “that we’re also putting a stronger legal duty on schools to provide independent and impartial advice”.

I took the floor and with mic in hand explained that “there are cases where you will put an individual in front of an employer and they don’t get the job. I know apprenticeships are training programmes, but certain individuals lack the confidence and skills to communicate themselves well. There should be training and guidance in place before you sit these young adults in front of employers. Hancock’s response was:  “The very best people to tell everyone about apprenticeships are apprentices themselves”.

The debate covered many topics including: the wider perception of apprenticeships, professional accreditation, a national body to represent the voices of apprentices, and addressing the ongoing issue of stereotyping and gender imbalance in apprenticeships. The latter being a good point in case. I was sat in a room full of apprentices where the clear majority were young males - we need to ensure opportunities are for both men and women.

I also strongly believe that schools now have a legal responsible duty to focus on these schemes and promote them alongside other career options. It was an invaluable experience for me and the opportunity to participate in the debate alone increased my self-confidence. It was exciting and inspiring to see the next generation of professionals! 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Landmark incorporates the first groundwater flood risk map available for England and Wales

Environment Agency maps show that about 5 million properties in England lie within areas at risk of flooding, but this does not include the greater risk posed by potential groundwater floods. Until now, there has not been any authoritative information to show where property is at risk of flooding by groundwater, with the only data available for the purpose merely showing susceptibility. However, with the publication of the ESI National Groundwater Flood Risk Map it is now clear that only half the areas thought to be susceptible to groundwater flooding are actually at risk, with just 12% of the land area of England and Wales situated within areas at risk of groundwater flooding (Scotland will be released spring 2014).

We are pleased to report that the problem is more localised than previously thought - around 50% of that suggested by previous data - where groundwater flooding does occur it can lead to longer duration impacts and increased damage to property than other causes of flooding.  By combining information on likelihood and severity, the new map provides vital data to indicate for the first time where property is at risk.

The findings are presented in a comprehensive series of new data sets that are being leveraged by us in partnership with environmental consultancy ESI.  Our reports will have a major impact not only on the way in which land is assessed and prepared for development, but also the speed at which property purchase transactions can take place.

Based on scientific and quantitative groundwater flood risk models, including data from the British Geological Survey national geoscience database and calibrated to the best available field evidence of flooding incidence, this is the first risk data set focusing purely on groundwater. The data will be incorporated into our proprietary risk assessment reports, thereby playing an integral role in sales transactions and land-use planning by facilitating even more detailed site evaluations, together with advice around a suitable programme of protection measures where appropriate.

One of the key benefits of the data is that it specifically assesses risk, rather than susceptibility to flooding. This means that it is significantly more accurate than other data sources, due to the fact that it gives fewer ‘false positive’ results. In turn this means that, for the residential market, conveyancing solicitors can more accurately highlight risk to new homebuyers, facilitating quicker transactions because properties will not be unduly blighted by less accurate flood data. Furthermore, from the very outset environmental consultants can more correctly identify, mitigate and avoid potential development in areas that are confirmed as being exposed to groundwater flooding.  

Groundwater flooding typically occurs after long periods of sustained high rainfall and takes longer to dissipate than surface water, meaning that groundwater floods can persist for several weeks and even months following severe flooding. Recently, many locations have seen groundwater levels rise by more than 10 metres thanks to prolonged and persistent rainfall conditions[1], and recent groundwater flooding events have proven the value of this new map by confirming the validity of the risk model.

Chris Taylor, Director at Landmark Information Group, commented: “With extreme weather conditions threatening to become ever more prevalent, the ability to more accurately assess risk promises to become an increasingly important tool in first stage prevention. Not only will it act as a powerful screening tool in the early stages of planning, but the ability to clarify different levels of risk will play a huge role in helping people locally in planning ways to avoid exposure to flooding wherever possible.”

Mark Fermor, from ESI added: “There are areas where groundwater flood risk is significant, and it is important for those contemplating purchasing property or developing land to understand the risks and how to manage them.  There will be local or site-level features that are not included in these preliminary assessment maps but will act to prevent actual flooding, so it is also important to review the detailed guidance provided in the reports to put the findings in context.  Groundwater flooding is a significant problem and these new reports provide the advice needed to understand the data and what action, if any, is appropriate to address the risk.

We will be incorporating the groundwater flood risk data into a wide range of its risk assessment reports, including Homecheck Flood, Envirosearch Residential, SiteSolutions Residential, Sitecheck Combined, SiteSolutions Commerical and SiteSolutions Combined. 

[1] Thames Water

National Tree Map data launches onto Promap Labs

A new test dataset has been released on to the Promap Labs portal; the latest inclusion is a sample dataset of Bluesky’s National Tree Map (NTM). This is a digital tree map layer that accurately depicts the location and extent of trees, including their proximity to buildings.

Derived from Aerial Photography, Colour Infra-Red data, Digital Terrain Model and Digital Surface Model data, the sample dataset contains location and height information of individual trees, together with the area and circumference of the canopy.

Promap Labs is designed to provide land and property professionals with the ability to access and interrogate new datasets and digital mapping concepts, in order to understand their value within future Landmark products.

Carole Ankers, Product Development Director, Landmark Information Group said, “New for Promap Labs is a sample from the Bluesky National Tree Map; the sample dataset provides users with an insight into the location and size of trees on a given plot. We believe it will prove extremely popular for professionals working on site selection or within planning applications for new developments.  We encourage as many people as possible to access Promap Labs to test the NTM and provide us with feedback on how this would work for your organisation.”

 The application of the NTM dataset is far-reaching; in addition to being used in land and property planning and development, there is scope for the data to be used by dendrologists, government departments such as the Forestry Commission and Housing Associations that wish to visually catalogue trees that are within their management remit.

In addition to the National Tree Map data, two additional datasets from Bluesky will be showcased on Promap Labs.  This includes Colour Infrared Imagery, which uses state-of-the-art remote sensing techniques to provide a wealth of information to assist in assessing the health, state, growth and type of vegetation. Available at a 50cm resolution it is ideal for a range of uses, including crop management, environmental monitoring or assessment of foliage health.

The other is the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index, which uses remote sensing techniques to assess the concentration and health of vegetation. This dataset delivers a range of benefits for those undertaking forest mapping, monitoring or management, in addition to vegetation health analysis, land cover classification or assessment of soil moisture.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Calm Before The Storm?

The latest research from CIFAS has identified a decrease in fraudulent cases during 2013. According to the latest numbers from the fraud prevention service, an 11 per cent reduction was recorded from the previous year; which was the first year-on-year decline since 2010.

It’s all very positive news until we learn that fraud continues to remain at a higher rate than ‘pre-recessionary times’, so we still have some way to go.

When looking at why the drop has occurred, it is positive to note that increased investment in fraud detection and prevention technology, including data sharing, has been a key factor. 

It doesn't however mean that fraud has stopped altogether: in fact with more systems being deployed to stop such crimes from occurring, fraudsters are turning their attentions to targets that appear more ‘vulnerable’.   For example, fraud against loan accounts, including secured, unsecured and payday loans went up by 55%.

So, while the overall figures paint a fairly optimistic picture, we must continue to be on our guard against fraud. 

In particular, next month, we see the implementation of the Mortgage Market Review recommendations.   With a host of new rules and procedures coming into force, including greater scrutiny regarding applicants’ affordability, are we in fact simply witnessing the ‘calm before the storm’?

With borrowers having to provide more detailed assurances that the loan is appropriate to their financial circumstances, we will be closely monitoring whether this has an impact on application fraud, such as an upturn in false income declarations or non-disclosure of debts, for example. 

We are working with our lender clients to ensure that relevant fraud alerts are in place on their risk dashboards so any potential impact is identified as early in the process as possible.  This includes attempting to go ‘under the radar’ and instead access funds via Buy-to-Let products, where income verification isn’t a requirement.

Time will tell, however risk-based IT systems are ready and in place to safeguard lenders from a wide range of risks. It will be particularly interesting to see what effect the new regulations have on both mortgage volumes and incidences of application fraud. 

Richard Groom, Product Development Director, Landmark Quest

Landmark shortlisted at the New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2014

We are delighted to confirm that Landmark Information Group has been shortlisted for ‘New Energy Champion’, at the New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2014. The event will be held in London on Wednesday 30th April 2014, where the winners will be announced.

Now in its seventh year, the New Energy & Cleantech Awards recognise those who play a pivotal role in the process and shaping of the future green energy and cleantech industries: companies, entrepreneurs, investors and specialist advisers. Landmark Information Group has been nominated as a result of the work it has done in creating and launching the new Sustainability Sure service, which is an all-in-one carbon, energy and sustainability solution for corporate organisations and public bodies.

This awards ceremony is renowned for attracting more than 300 CEOs, FDs, entrepreneurs, advisers, venture capitalists and financiers, and prides itself on bringing the City and business sectors together in a dynamic and exciting environment.

David Mole, Business Development Director at Landmark said: “To be nominated for an industry award for Sustainability Sure by our peers is a great achievement and we are pleased to have been shortlisted in the New Energy & Cleantech Awards. We look forward to hearing the outcome at the end of April at the planned ceremony.”

Monday, 10 March 2014

“Bombs Away” - Understanding unexploded ordnance risks

Over 60 environmental consultants and property professionals joined our recent webinar with 6 Alpha: “Bombs Away” - Understanding unexploded ordnance risks.  David Mole, Business Development Director at Landmark commented: “around 12% of the entire UK landmass has been used for military training and over 15,000 items of ordnance were found in UK construction sites between 2006 and 2009.  Our free webinar provided our clients with an overview of the source of UXO risk, and steps they can take to minimise risk.”

During WWI and WWII thousands of tonnes of high explosives were dropped on the UK, with 17,000 tonnes falling on London alone.  Approximately 10% of the air delivered bombs failed to explode (6 Alpha Associates), resulting in an underground unexploded hazard which remains to this day.   Other large cities that have been affected are Portsmouth, Plymouth Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle and many others.

Even today, these munitions still present a significant hazard, with the news often featuring reports of bombs being found in the construction environment  and washed up on the beach.  Unexploded ordnance risk is also caused by military sites, active explosive sites and weapons and ammunition manufactures.  An analysis of our data archives identified 600 historical and active explosive sites in the UK and over 1,000 weapons and ammunition manufacturers.

Simon Cooke, Managing Director at 6 Alpha Associates, described the steps necessary to reduce the risk associated with unexploded ordnance to a level that is as low as reasonably practical (ALARP).

Simon commented: “At the start of any new ground works project, the first stage Preliminary search is a must. While the potential risk may be considered small, it should not be overlooked for the ultimate safety of all concerned.”

The first step to analysing potential risk is a desktop tool called a Preliminary UXO Risk Assessment, which indicates whether there is any risk of encountering a bomb. It's a quick and relatively cost effective option, developed in line with guidance from CIRIA and endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive.

If the  Preliminary UXO Risk Assessment suggests a risk to the project, the next step is to conduct a Detailed UXO Risk Assessment. This will detail the type of threat, the size, origin and also takes into account the proposed construction method and how that would impact on risk of UXO being encountered including project delay and prospectively a detonation event.  Strategic risk mitigation measures are described enabling investigative/groundworks and/or groundworks to safely proceed.

Read more about Envirocheck Bomb Search.

Landmark Information Group offer a range of free webinars and training sessions.  For more information or to arrange a free training session please contact

Thursday, 6 March 2014

EA LiDAR data from Promap saves the day for Craddy Pitchers Davidson

  • Enabled timely completion of planning application on 40 acre, £40m development project
  • Physical topographic study not permitted due to ecological constraints
  • Team turns to EA LiDAR digital terrain model data to support flood risk assessment and drainage strategy
  • Data provided in just two days and for £150

Structural engineering firm, Craddy Pitchers Davidson, has completed a flood risk assessment and drainage strategy essential for a planning application for a £40m development project, using EA LiDAR Digital Terrain Model data from our Promap service.  The team at Craddy Pitchers Davidson overcome a hurdle of not being able to physically survey the land due to ecological constraints by instead accessing LiDAR data, which is a fraction of the cost of a topographic survey, and was completed in two days, compared to several weeks.

Simon Pitchers, Director of Craddy Pitchers Davidson confirmed: “In order to progress the planning application, we needed to produce a flood risk assessment and a drainage strategy, both of which require a good understanding of site levels.  However, with protected species identified on the site, dense vegetation could not be removed and physical topographic surveying to establish levels was not possible.  We contacted Landmark’s Promap team and were advised about EA LiDAR Digital Terrain Model data.  This really saved the day. The EA LiDAR data is accurate to +/-5cm to 15cm, which was perfectly adequate for our initial needs, plus it was delivered in just two days and for £150.”

LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analysing the reflected light.  Via Promap, high accuracy mass-capture datasets are available in a range of resolutions and formats, including Digital Terrain Models. This provides a topographic model of the underlying terrain of the earth's surface, which is derived by digitally removing the cultural (man-made) and vegetation features of a given area.  The EA LiDAR data has an accuracy of +/-5cm to 15cm, with the spatial resolutions ranging from 25cm to 2 metres and are suitable for a range of environmental applications, including flood risk assessment.  

Continues Simon Pitchers: “Not being able to undertake the physical site survey had the potential to delay the entire project.  Without it we simply couldn’t completed the planning application. Now, if ever we need to undertake a basic initial appraisal of a site before commissioning the full topographic survey, we will be using EA LiDAR data again. While it doesn’t replace physical surveys, it gives us a great insight into a plot without visiting, which is ideal if it is far away for example.  LiDAR data is a great discovery; it’s not expensive, provides a good level of accuracy and as far as I see it, it’s a real advantage for us and our customers.”

Carole Ankers, Product Development Director, Landmark Information Group said, “When faced with an obstacle of having to undertake a flood risk assessment and drainage strategy on a densely overgrown 40 acre site, with ecological constraints, the team at Craddy Pitchers Davidson needed to find an alternative option. Our EA LiDAR datasets are accurate, quick to produce and are extremely cost effective. Instead of paying thousands for a physical survey, LiDAR is available from £100 and can be relied upon for many purposes. We are pleased to have been able to help the team progress with this important development project.”

With over 25,000 users, our Promap service is used by surveyors, architects, property and land developers, environmental consultants and other industry professionals that require instant access to Ordnance Survey maps and related digital mapping data, including 3D models, height data, aerial photography and geo-data, including environmental, planning and geological reports to identify potential site issues.

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