Ordinary watercourse consents

Bracknell Forest Council is the Lead Local Flood Authority. We are the consenting authority for proposed structures and obstructions within a watercourse, under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010

Structures and obstructions within a watercourse need consent under Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act 1991. This may include:

  • dams
  • weirs
  • culverts (pipes)
  • any other structure which affects the flow of water within the channel

Ordinary watercourse

An ordinary watercourse is any river, stream, brook, ditch, drain, culvert, pipe and any other passage through which water may flow which is not designated as main river. It does not have to be recorded on a map to be an ordinary watercourse.

You can check if a watercourse is classified as a main river on the Environment Agency's Main River map. If the section of watercourse you want to work on is not on their map, then it is automatically classified as an ordinary watercourse.

Consent is needed for works that affect water flow within the channel of an ordinary watercourse. This includes temporary works. This could be a new pipe (culvert), bridge, dam, pond or other structure in the watercourse or a change to the alignment or the banks of the watercourse.

See the document below for examples of structures that might need consent.

Attachment Size
102 KB

Environmental permit

If the section of watercourse is classified as a main river, you need to get an environmental permit. Check if you need to apply for an environmental permit and get the forms you need on GOV.UK

Fill in the online application form. If you need advice, contact us at highways.transport@bracknell-forest.gov.uk.

Apply for an ordinary watercourse consent

What documents to include

Description of works and method statement

Explanation of works and how the works will be carried out on a step by step basis.

This must contain a contingency plan should there be an unexpected high level of water present in the watercourse which would affect the works.

The level of detail required should be proportionate to the complexity of the works. 


Maps showing the location and extent of works.

Depending on the size of the works, this may also include:

  • site location plan at 1:25,000 and 1:100
  • layout plan showing proposed works

Cross sectional plan

Cross section of structures within the channel which show any potential impact on flow within the watercourse.

This is required for both temporary and permanent works.

Detailed drawings

The detailed drawings should include:

  • existing and proposed features
  • materials used for any structures
  • location of any service pipes which may affect future maintenance of the watercourse
  • locations and details of any damming or weirs and pumping used to hold back or transfer water during works

Maintenance plan

This should detail how the structure and watercourse will be maintained during and after work.

Information that may be required for a higher risk application


If you are changing the cross section of the watercourse or installing a culvert, calculations may be required to prove that the proposed changes will not increase flood risk.

If you want advice as to whether calculations are required, email highways.transport@bracknell-forest.gov.uk.

Environmental Impact or Water Framework Assessment

If the works are likely to have an environmental impact, you must supply a proportional environmental impact assessment.

This allows us to determine if the proposed works will cause a significant impact to the environment under the provisions of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 or under the Water Framework Directive.

Costs and how to pay

Each consent costs £50. A separate consent is required for each structure or part of the works which affect the channel.

Multiple consents can be made for the same location in a single application.

Structures in different locations need separate applications.

If you need to build a temporary structure or diversion for the water to enable you to build the final structure, you need to apply for consent for both of these. For example, a temporary structure plus the final structure requires 2 consents at a total cost of £100.

If you are not sure of how many structures your plans will involve or what you need to pay for, contact us.

When to apply

Consent must be granted before any works are undertaken. We cannot grant consent retroactively for works that have been completed or are already underway.

If works are carried out without consent, we may legally require that the watercourse be returned to its original state.


The maximum amount of time we can take to consider your application is 2 months from the date of receipt of application and payment.

If you are not informed of a decision before this deadline, the consent is automatically granted.

Reasons for refusal

We have a general presumption against culverting (piping) of ordinary watercourses. If you are requesting this, make sure you include a valid reason in your application. You should also give evidence to show why you have discounted alternatives to culverting.

Sufficient information and rationale must be provided for applications to be assessed.

Applications may be refused for several reasons, including that:

  • the works cause an increase in flood risk at the location of the works or elsewhere
  • insufficient information was submitted to allow an assessment to be made
  • the works may cause adverse impacts on ecology and biodiversity or water quality - linked to the Water Framework Directive.
  • viable alternatives may exist which cause less impact to the ordinary watercourse - like retaining an open channel over culverting


If your application is refused, you have the right to appeal our decision under Section 23(5) of the Land Drainage Act 1991.

Alternatively, you can make a new application straight away.

Contact information

Highways and Transport