Flood Risk Management

Land Drainage

Ordinary Watercourse Regulation

On 6 April 2012 the next phase of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (paragraphs 32 and 33 of Schedule 2) will come into effect. This means that the responsibility for Ordinary Watercourse regulation will transfer from the Environment Agency to Devon County Council.

Regulation consists of two elements:

  • The issuing of consents for any changes to ordinary watercourses that might obstruct or alter the flow of an Ordinary Watercourse.
  • Enforcement action to rectify unlawful and potentially damaging work to a watercourse.

Consent for works on Ordinary Watercourses

What is an Ordinary Watercourse?

An 'Ordinary Watercourse' is defined as a 'watercourse' that is not a 'Main River'.  Ordinary watercourses include streams, drains and ditches, and passages through which water flows that do not form the network of main rivers. A statutory map showing main rivers is available from the Environment Agency’s ‘what’s in your backyard service’. Confirmation of a river status can be obtained from the Devon County Council Flood Risk Management team.

Who do I get consent from?

If you wish to undertake certain types of work on a watercourse then you need permission from the appropriate body. This depends on whether the watercourse is classed as a ‘Main River’ or an ‘Ordinary Watercourse’.

If the watercourse is classed as Main River you need to apply for consent from the Environment Agency for any works that you propose to do. Contact details for the appropriate office dealing with your area can be found on the Environment Agency’s Website.

Works affecting an Ordinary Watercourse may require consent from Devon County Council or your local Internal Drainage Board (works within Braunton Internal Drainage District).

Why do I need consent?

Under the Land Drainage Act 1991 certain types of work within a watercourse may not be permitted due to the potential increase in flood risk. In order to allow work to take place, Devon County Council can issue consent for a proposed scheme by checking that it does not increase the risk of flooding and that it does not adversely affect the environment.

The Land Drainage Act (1991), as amended by the Flood and Water Management Act (2010), specifies:

       “No person shall —

       (a) erect any mill dam, weir or other like obstruction to the flow of any ordinary watercourse or raise or otherwise alter any such                 obstruction; or

       (b) erect a culvert in an ordinary watercourse; or

       (c) alter a culvert in a manner that would be likely to affect the flow of an ordinary watercourse — without the consent in writing of             the drainage board concerned.”

What type of work needs consent?

Both permanent and temporary works affecting a watercourse may require consent. Only certain types of works require consent, where under the Land Drainage Act 1991, consent is required for any mill dam, weir, or like obstruction to flow, any culvert or any alterations to a culvert likely to affect flow. You are encouraged to contact us in advance of applying for consent so that we can discuss your requirements, provide advice and ensure that your application is valid and completed correctly.

How do I apply?

To make an application for consent for works to an Ordinary Watercourse, please read the guidance notes and complete the application form. Sufficient additional information must be included in order for us to determine the suitability of your proposals. You must also demonstrate that your proposals will not have an adverse effect on flood risk or the environment. You must also submit an application fee (if applicable, please contact us to confirm). This is currently £50.

Your application will be determined within two months of receiving a valid application. A valid application includes a completed application form, appropriate details of your proposals and the application fee (if appropriate).

Please read the guidance notes available to ensure you have included all of the relevant information required for validation.

Enforcement action against unconsented works

In the case of works being carried out without consent, and where Devon County Council deems that consent would have been required, works cannot be retrospectively consented. In these cases we will normally take action to see the ordinary watercourse is put back to the condition it was in beforehand or remedial action taken.

If you have noticed works to an ordinary watercourse in your local area, please contact us to determine whether the works required our consent and whether an application for consent was made or not.

Please send details to floodrisk@devon.gov.uk

Devon County Council will take a risk-based approach to enforcement where unconsented works have been carried out on ordinary watercourses.

Further Information: