Skip to main content

Land drainage (land and homeowners)

Land drainage consents

An ordinary watercourse is any passage through which water flows which is not part of a main river. This includes rivers, streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts, dykes, sluices and sewers (other than public sewers).

South Gloucestershire Council is responsible for consenting works that affect the flow of an ordinary watercourse. If you intend to undertake works which may affect the flow or storage of water, even temporarily, you need to apply to our Drainage and Flood Risk Management team for consent.  Early discussion with the team is recommended to help you avoid unnecessary delays.

If your watercourse is part of a main river, you will need to apply for consent from the Environment Agency (EA).

Our “Land Drainage Consents” document that describes how to apply for a consent, provides advice on the other parties from whom you may need consent, and sets out our duties and enforcement powers.


South Gloucestershire Council as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) has powers under the Land Drainage Act 1991 to take enforcement action in relation to watercourses outside of Internal Drainage Board (IDB) areas and where they are not Environment Agency designated main rivers.

Enforcement action may be taken by the regulating authority to rectify any unlawful, damaging or potentially damaging works on an ordinary watercourse. The LLFA will take a risk based and proportionate approach to enforcement action taking into account a number of factors.

Our “Enforcement” document that describes in greater detail our enforcement powers, why and when we would use these powers, and gives and outline of the enforcement process.

Riparian ownership

A riparian owner is someone who has a watercourse within or adjacent to any boundary of their land. It is presumed that they own up to the centre of the watercourse unless it is known to be owned by someone else.

If you are a riparian owner, you have certain rights, but are also legally obliged to fulfil certain responsibilities under laws enacted to help manage flood risk and to protect the environment.

Our “Riparian Ownership” document that explains the rights and responsibilities of riparian owners, sets out common problems affecting watercourses and what you are required to be before undertaking any work to watercourses.

Is there anything wrong with this page?