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Land drainage

The Land Drainage system deals with a large proportion of the water arising inland from rainfall and surface water run-off, as well as groundwater.

The land drainage system incorporates rivers, watercourse, ditches, culvert, pipes, lakes & ponds. 

Land drainage is complex and is primarily a private matter between adjoining landowners. We are the nominated land drainage authority and have some enforcement powers to make landowners carry out works to prevent serious internal flooding of domestic dwellings. Some watercourses are classed as 'controlled' and the Environment Agency will ensure that they are properly maintained and take action against those found polluting or obstructing the flow of water.



The Land Drainage Act 1991 requires that a watercourse be maintained by its owner in such a condition that the free flow of water is not impeded. 


Who is responsible?

It is not generally understood that the council has no responsibilities (except when it is a land owner) for land drainage. 

We, along with other public bodies, only has permissive powers to act in certain circumstances, to mitigate the effects of flooding. We do not own any land drainage ditches, unless they are adjacent or abut Council Land. We may be able to take limited action, in line with the our Icon for pdf land drainage policy [138.75KB]

If you own land located immediately adjacent to or abutting a drainage ditch, river or any other inland body of water then in legal terms you are a Riparian Owner and have certain common law rights and responsibilities. View guidance on Icon for pdf Riparian Ownership [39.74KB]

If you have surface water flowing onto your land you are responsible for installing suitable drainage to accommodate this flow of water. Therefore, if an adjacent property installs land drains or hard surfaces their land, resulting in more water flowing onto your land, you cannot take action against that person, and must carry out your own works as required, even if that pushes the problem onto your neighbour. This is because no one owns the water, which will always find its own path. View more information on our Icon for pdf land drainage policy [138.75KB].

Even if the Title Deeds for your property show the boundary to stop at your fence, you still have riparian rights and responsibilities to the centre of the watercourse if the ditch is located between 2 properties. However, if the ditch joins a highway then you are responsible for maintaining the whole ditch.  


Further information

If you require any further advice or your home is suffering from internal flooding, then please contact us by email to or by phone on 01257 515151 with as much information as possible.

Where there is no internal flooding or risk of repeat internal flooding of your home then you may need to consult a drainage engineer to assist you to design a scheme for your own land or solicitor for further advice. 

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