The maintenance of watercourses plays a key role in managing water levels and reducing the risk of flooding. If you are planning to undertake works within a watercourse, you need permission to do so by law. It is essential that anyone who intends to carry out works in, over, under or near a watercourse, contacts the relevant flood risk management authority to obtain the necessary permissions before starting the work.
In relation to works on an ordinary watercourse:
"No person shall:
- 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
- erect a culvert in an ordinary watercourse, or
- 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.”
Ordinary watercourses include every river, drain, stream, ditch, dyke, cuts, sluices, culverts, sewer (other than public sewer) and passages through which water flows that do not form part of main rivers. It is not required for water to flow at all times for it to be considered as a watercourse. The Environment Agency remains responsible for regulating activities affecting the coast and main rivers through environmental permitting.