Private property and land drainage

In common law a riparian owner owns land adjoining a river or other watercourse and therefore has certain rights and responsibilities. 

Responsibilities of a riparian owner

It is important that watercourses do not become overgrown and are kept free from debris. Watercourses have the capacity to carry significant volumes of water during flooding. If this capacity is reduced the risk of flooding can increase.

Unless it is owned by somebody else, the law presumes you own the land up to the centre point of the watercourse. This means that you and your neighbouring land owner are responsible for the maintenance and water flow within the watercourse where it borders your land.

More information and examples of the responsibilities of riparian owners is given in our document about PDF file downloadland drainage (PDF, 753kb).

It is not the council’s responsibility to carry out maintenance or improvement works in these situations.

Liabilities of the riparian owner

If you do not maintain the watercourse or any asset within it we can ask you to do so. Should you fail to do so we may maintain them for you and take legal action to seek to recover our costs.

Please remember that if you do not carry out your legal responsibilities you could face legal action.

Altering your watercourse

Which alterations do I need consent for?

You may need consent for any measure or feature that alters the normal behaviour or flow of a watercourse.

Please note that the council tries to avoid culverting, and our consent for such works will not normally be granted except as a means of access.

View PDF file downloadour diagrams showing cross sections of activities  (PDF, 92kb)to find out if you need to apply for consent.

Who do I need to apply to for consent to alter my watercourse?

If your watercourse is part of a main river then you will need to apply for consent to the Environment Agency.

If your watercourse is not part of a main river, then you will need to apply to us for consent.

PDF file downloadApply for an ordinary watercourse consent (PDF, 48kb)

How much does it cost to get consent?

There is a charge of £50 for each structure associated with the application. Please contact us before you send in the application to check how much consent will cost.

How long does it take to get consent?

We will let you know within two months whether we are giving consent.

Can consent be refused?

We may refuse an application if we think that the watercourse’s flow will be obstructed or if we have insufficient information to make a decision. We advise you to ensure that you provide sufficient detail. If you are unclear, please contact us before you send in the application. If you haven’t sought consent prior to undertaking works then we reserve the right to request that remedial action be taken to reinstate the watercourse to its previous condition.

Who can I contact to get advice from before making an application for consent?

Please call 01344 352000.

If it's about a new vehicle access please ask for the Highways Asset Management Team.

For consents which are part of a planning application or relate to adoptable highway please contact the SuDS Team or Highway Adoption Team.

How can I find out if there is an asset on my property?

Please contact customer services on 01344 352000 to arrange to view the asset register.

Was this page useful?

Yes No

Thank you. You can provide further feedback on this page using our feedback form.