Households and businesses across England have today been given access to a powerful new tool to help them check for flood risks to property.

Data from the Environment Agency has been combined with mapping and postcode details to allow speedy and easy to understand use of flood area information which, for the first time, has been made available as ‘open’ data.

CheckMyFloodRisk.co.uk, from award-winning data visualisation specialists, Shoothill, allows end users to precisely pinpoint their distance from known risks of flooding from rivers and the sea. Overlaid on an interactive map, users can input a post code or address and see its proximity to flood risks – with greater pinpoint accuracy possible by dragging the ‘pin’ over any property or location –the risk (if any) and distance to the nearest flood zone is then automatically displayed.

Combined with the company’s proactive FloodAlerts live flood warning system (developed with the Environment Agency) and its live river and tide level gauge monitor, GaugeMap, there is now a suite of free products which put critical flood data in the hands of users.

The service is expected to be popular with people who think their homes might be at risk, those in the process of buying property or businesses which need to assess risks to their sites and other assets.

Managing director of Shoothill, Rod Plummer, explained: “This hugely valuable dataset became freely available only very recently as part of the Environment Agency’s continued commitment to the UK’s Open Data initiative. By using our previous expertise in flood mapping, and in the presentation of big data in easy to understand formats, we’ve been able to make this information easily accessible to everyone. In doing so, we’ve also completed a suite of products, with FloodAlerts and GaugeMap, which allow for proactive flood alerts, live monitoring from rivers and the sea and now a more general checking of an area’s flood profile.

“We can easily imagine this becoming a standard check that people do before buying property, just like running a search on broadband availability or school catchment areas. Now, anyone can check their flood risk in seconds and we will keep the data updated in step with the Environment Agency releasing amended versions to it in the years ahead.”

Although currently limited to England, Mr Plummer added that the opening up of the flood area data was a credit to the Environment Agency and a further demonstration that the UK Government is a world leader in making key publicly-funded data, ‘open’ and freely available.

At the end of 2014 Shropshire-based Shoothill received a prestigious award for innovation from the Open Data Institute. The ODI was founded by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who presented the awards.

Mr Plummer said: “There are exciting things happening with open data in the UK right now, and we’re delighted to have been recognised as being part of it.”