The Borough Council is the Local Land Drainage Authority as defined under the Land Drainage Act 1991. The Council has permissive powers that can be used to ensure ordinary watercourses are maintained to such a standard as to allow the free flow of water.
An ordinary watercourse can be a river, stream, ditch, drain, cut, dyke, sewer (other than a Public Sewer or Highway Drain) or passage through water flows that does not form part of a "Main River".
The rivers, streams and ditches are the responsibility of the "Riparian Landowners" who own land on either bank and as such have rights and responsibilities associated with the watercourse flowing through or adjacent to their property.
Responsibilities of a Riparian Owner:
- To pass on the flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others.
- To accept flood flows through your land, even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream, as there is no common law duty to improve a watercourse.
- Maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks) and for clearing any debris, natural or otherwise, including litter and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from their land.
- Must not cause any obstructions to the free passage of fish.
- Responsible for keeping the bed and banks clear from any matter that could cause an obstruction either on your land, or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct at a structure downstream. Watercourses and their banks should not be used for the disposal of any form of garden or other waste.
- Responsible for keeping clear any structures that they own such as culverts, screens, weirs and mill gates.
- Protecting their property from seepage through natural or man-made banks. Where such seepage threatens the structural integrity of a flood defence, it may become the concern of the Environment Agency.
- Flood defences such as walls and embankments on their property that are vital for the protection of both owner/occupier and others. In these circumstances they should discuss the maintenance of such defences with the local Environment Agency office.
Rights of a Riparian Owner:
- May own land up to the centre of the watercourse.
- Have the right to receive flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality.
- Protect their property from flooding, and their land from erosion.
- Fish in your watercourse, although this must be by legal methods and with an Environment Agency rod licence.
- Abstract a maximum of 20 cubic metres per day of water for the domestic purposes of their own household or for agricultural use, excluding spray irrigation, from a watercourse at a point that directly adjoins their land without the need for a licence. Most other types of abstraction will require a licence from the Environment Agency.
- These rights are modified by their duty of care to riparian owners, the rest of the community and to the environment - that is, they must not do anything that harms or affects others.
- Prior to the commencement of any work on or adjacent to a watercourse, plans must be submitted of any work to the Environment Agency and the Council to determine whether a land drainage consent and/or planning permission are required. Environmental issues, including flood risk, wildlife conservation, fisheries, reshaping of the river and landscape, must all be considered.