Land drains or watercourses include all rivers, streams, ditches, cuts, culverts (piped sections), dykes, sluices and passages through which water flows.
Responsibility for watercourses rests with property and landowners with watercourses crossing or abutting their land. Where a watercourse is between property boundaries, each owner is jointly responsible. Their responsibilities include accepting natural flows from upstream and maintaining the system to allow water to pass on without obstruction. Normally maintenance will involve cutting back growth on the banks and in the bed of a watercourse and removing the build-up of debris from grills to culverts. Any obstructions affecting the flow must also be removed. Periodically, the build-up of silt will need removing from the bed of a watercourse. Organising a working party in conjunction with neighbours is usually the most best, and cheapest, way of organising this maintenance.
Land drainage legislation can be found in the Land Drainage Act 1991 and in the local Land Drainage Byelaws. The council has no responsibilities for land drainage, except when it is the landowner. We only have powers to act in certain circumstances, to mitigate the effects of flooding.
If a landowner fails to carry out necessary maintenance on an ordinary watercourse then we can use powers under the Land Drainage Act to serve notice requiring them to undertake the necessary works. Failure to comply with such a notice may result in the council undertaking the work and recharging the owner the costs of doing so. We prefer not to take formal action and for landowners to maintain watercourses voluntarily. The council's powers do not extend to main rivers and if similar problems occur on these then the Environment Agency would have to take any action deemed necessary.
Occasionally landowners wish to pipe a watercourse. Piping or any other action which reduces or restricts the flow in a watercourse should not be undertaken until the Environment Agency and the council have been consulted and any consent obtained.