MK Council - Policy Statement On Flood Defence

This policy statement has been prepared by Milton Keynes Council to provide a public statement of the Council’s approach to flood defence in its area.

1. Introduction


1.1 This policy statement has been prepared by Milton Keynes Council to provide a public statement of the Council’s approach to flood defence in its area.


1.2 The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has policy responsibility for flood and coastal defence in England. Delivery of that policy where appropriate however, is the responsibility of a number of flood and coastal defence “operating authorities”, such as the Environment Agency, the various Internal Drainage Boards and local authorities. The responsibilities of the various authorities vary according to the type and location of the individual operating authority, and Milton Keynes Council’s approach to its responsibilities is set out in this policy statement.

1.3 The Government has published a policy aim and three objectives for flood and coastal defence;

The Policy Aim – To reduce the risk to people and the developed and natural environment from flooding and coastal erosion by encouraging the provision of technically, environmentally and economically sound and sustainable defence measures.

Section 3 of this document sets out Milton Keynes Council’s plans for reducing or managing the risk of flooding in its area, and Section 2 deals with the Objectives.

The Three Objectives –

a) To encourage the provision of adequate and cost effective warning systems;

b) To encourage the provision of adequate, economically, technically and environmentally sound and sustainable flood and coastal defence measures;

c) To discourage inappropriate development in areas at risk from flooding and coastal erosion.

- and in order to ensure a more certain delivery of the aims and objectives, the Government has published a series of high level targets:

The first target requires each operating authority to publish a policy statement setting out its plans for delivering the Government’s Policy Aim and Objectives in its area. The Policy statement shall include an assessment of the risk of flooding in the Authority’s area, together with the plans in place to reduce or manage the risk.

1.4 This policy statement fulfils the requirement of High Level Target 1, and copies may be obtained from The Highway Network Manager, Milton Keynes Council, Environment Directorate, PO Box 113, Civic Offices, Central Milton Keynes MK9 3HN. The document will also be made available on the Council’s website at

1.5 The Council is also providing a copy of this Policy Statement to;

  • The Department for Transport
  • The Environment Agency
  • The Buckingham and River Ouzel Internal Drainage Board


2. Milton Keynes Council's approach to the delivery of the Government's policy aim and objectives 

2.1 Milton Keynes Council supports the Government’s aim and objectives for flood defence, but recognises that in law its powers, and hence all actions which it takes in relation to general land drainage and flood defence are permissive. Our approach to the Aim and Objectives will be as follows;

2.2 Objective a) To encourage the provision of adequate and cost effective flood warning systems.

  • The provision of flood warning systems is the responsibility of the Environment Agency; however the Council, in recognition of its related role in emergency planning and the public’s expectations of it, will co-operate with the Agency in responses to flood emergencies and will participate in exercises to develop and test emergency response procedures.
  • The Council reviews its own emergency response plans in respect of flood emergencies annually, more frequently if local conditions dictate, in full consultation with the Environment Agency.
  • The Council plays a positive role in the Environment Agency’s flood warning dissemination plans throughout its area and actively supports its implementation and validation.
  • The Council plays a full and agreed role in any flood warning or flood response exercise organised by the Environment Agency within its area.


2.3 Objective b) To encourage the provision of adequate, economically, technically and environmentally sound and sustainable flood and coastal defence measures.

Milton Keynes Council will support an adequate, economically, technically and environmentally sound approach to providing the flood defence service, and in particular will;

  • Support a strategic approach to provision of flood defences by assessing any potentially wider effects of all proposed flood defence works, to which end we will play a full role in local Environment Agency plans for our area.
  • Aim to promote and support only sustainable flood defences which provide social and/or economic benefits to people whilst taking account of natural processes and which avoid committing future generations to inappropriate defence options.
  • Ensure all flood defence work is carried out in accordance with best practice and principles of best value by:

    - keeping abreast of flood defence policy and technical developments with reference to DEFRA and other Government publications

    - consulting and sharing best practice with the Environment Agency and other parties or organisations

    - using appropriately experienced advisors in the analysis of design of proposed flood defences.

  • Consider alternative and innovative sources of funding such as Public/Private Partnerships.
  • Wherever appropriate, seek contributions from developers or other direct beneficiaries of works, in accordance with National Planning Policy Note, PPG 25.
  • Ensure that appropriate maintenance regimes are in place for flood defences for which the Council is responsible as riparian owner.
  • Advise other landowners of their riparian responsibilities and obligations with respect to maintenance of watercourses and flood defence structures situated on their land.
  • Publish in its Budget Book annually, the budgeted expenditure on flood defence and riparian maintenance.

The Council will play a positive role in fulfilling its responsibilities for furthering nature conservation, including achievement of the Government’s environmental obligations and targets, through the policies contained in the Milton Keynes Local Plan.

The Council will fulfil its responsibilities in relation to nationally and internationally important conservation areas, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and as a competent authority under the terms of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994.

When carrying out flood defence works, the Council will seek opportunities for environmental enhancement, and aim to avoid damage to sites of environmental interest and to ensure no net loss to habitats covered by Biodiversity Action Plans. It will monitor all losses and gains of such habitats as a result of these operations and report on them annually to the Environment Agency.

We will ensure that, for those Water Level Management Plans where the Council is the lead operating authority, we work in partnership with English Nature to complete, implement and review Plans in accordance with DEFRA guidance on plan completion and the timetables set out in DEFRA High Level Targets.

2.4 Objective c) To discourage inappropriate development in areas at risk from flooding and coastal erosion.

As the local Planning Authority for its area, Milton Keynes Council will take account of flooding risks in all matters relating to development control including development plans and individual planning applications, in accordance with Planning Policy Guidance Notes PPG20 and PPG 25.

3 Milton Keynes Council's Assessment of flooding risks in the area, and what it will do to reduce or manage that risk

3.1 Flood Defence Responsibilities

Apart from a duty under the 1992 EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), to protect important international wildlife habitats, all Milton Keynes Council’s flood defence works are undertaken using permissive powers it has as a Unitary Authority. It is important to note that these powers are permissive, and as such Milton Keynes Council has no obligation to carry out any flood defence works. It must also be stated that the Council as a matter of policy, accepts no responsibility for the maintenance of any flood defences situated on private land. Such defences are properly the responsibility of the owners of the land upon which they are situate and Milton Keynes Council will expect the owners of all private land to act in a responsible manner.

3.2 Milton Keynes Council is the relevant operating authority for flood defences on ordinary watercourses within its area that are outside the area covered by the Buckingham and River Ouzel Internal Drainage Board.

3.3 The flood defences which are owned or managed by Milton Keynes Council have been notified to the Environment Agency and will be included in the National Flood and Coastal Defence Database.

3.4 The Environment Agency is the relevant operating authority for flood defences on designated main rivers, the Great Ouse and the Ouzel. Milton Keynes Council, as highway authority is responsible for culverts under the highway network, with the exception of M1 Motorway and A5 Trunk Road, which are the responsibility of the Highways Agency.

3.5 Milton Keynes Council has a duty under the Highways Act, 1980 to ensure its highway culverts are maintained properly to prevent flooding of the highway.

3.6 The Council is working with the Environment Agency, the Buckingham Internal Drainage Board and other partners to produce supplementary planning guidance (SPG) on surface water management. The aim is to ensure that this issue is considered at a strategic level as part of the master planning of major new development areas, so that such development does not increase the risk of flooding either at local or catchment level, and wherever possible, reduces that risk.

3.7 The SPG will also encourage the use of sustainable urban drainage systems in new developments.

3.8 Assessment of Flood Risk

There are 105 km of ordinary watercourse in the area for which Milton Keynes Council is the operating authority. The Environment Agency is responsible for 89 km of main river, and the Buckingham and River Ouzel Internal Drainage Board is responsible for a further 65.4km of ordinary watercourses. The Environment Agency also has approximately 4 km of raised bank on the Main Rivers.

3.9 Where an ordinary watercourse meets criteria set down by the Environment Agency with regard to the numbers of properties potentially at risk from a flood event, the watercourse is defined as ‘Critical’. Only one watercourse in the Milton Keynes Council area currently meets the definition of ‘critical’, and this has been notified to the Environment Agency as 2.28km of Water Eaton Brook in Bletchley.

3.10 Based on historical flooding data and the Environment Agency’s indicative flood plain maps, Milton Keynes Council has carried out an assessment of the risk of flooding from the non-critical ordinary watercourses in its area, and the areas potentially at risk are;

Orchard Way, Stoke Goldington

Stoke Goldington Brook

Tathall End Brook

Ravenstone Brook

Chicheley Brook

Olney Road, Lavendon

Loughton Brook

Lower Weald, Calverton

Shenley Brook

Lakes Lane, Newport Pagnell (upstream of IDB controlled section)

Two pedestrian underpasses at V4 Watling Street near Crownhill.

Several of these watercourses are alongside roads through the associated villages and flow under various culverts and private driveways, some fitted with trash grids, which on occasion do flood the highway. The Council is satisfied, however that there is minimal risk to human life from the flooding of these ordinary watercourses, but emphasises the need for the Environment Agency’s flood warnings to be heeded in order that the risk to property may be reduced.

3.11 Action to reduce or manage flood risks

3.12 The main means by which flood risks will be managed is through the Environment Agency’s flood warning dissemination plan issued on 1 August 2000, incorporating any revisions (currently Revision 2, dated May 2002), and entitled “Local Flood Warning Plan for the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Authority Areas”. This makes arrangements for warnings to be provided in the following localities in Milton Keynes;






  • River Great Ouse west of New Bradwell
  • River Great Ouse east of New Bradwell
  • River Ouzel, south of M1 motorway


These warnings are generally disseminated through a network of flood wardens who have been appointed and trained by the Environment Agency. Individual telephone warnings to high risk properties are also put out by the Agency. Milton Keynes Council has included plans for responding to both major and minor flooding in its emergency planning procedures and has arrangements for cascading warnings received from the Environment Agency to relevant Council services.

3.13 The Council has in place a programme to inspect the state of;












  • watercourses alongside the Highway
  • highway culverts
  • trash grids
  • the drainage systems at prone underpasses
  • flood defences on its Critical Ordinary Watercourse.
  • flood defences for which it is responsible on other ordinary watercourses


This programme is based on both local or historic knowledge and the degree of risk associated with each particular location.

3.14 The Council will ensure that regular maintenance is carried out on flood defences, channels, culverts and drainage systems for which it accepts responsibility, so that they operate at optimum efficiency. Where such responsibility rests with a landowner, the Council will aim to secure co-operation in ensuring appropriate maintenance takes place, seeking action through enforcement powers if necessary.

3.15 The Council has made a bid in its 2003/4 Capital Programme to carry out flood alleviation works to its Critical Ordinary Watercourse, Water Eaton Brook. These works will consist of excavating a new channel at the confluence of the Brook with River Ouzel, in order to make the outfall from the brook join the river in the direction of flow rather than upstream as it currently does.

3.16 Routine maintenance of the Council’s flood defences will concentrate on removal of silt from highway culverts, the removal of debris from trash grids and the cutting back of vegetation where it is deemed to impede the flow of water.

3.17 The Council will work closely with and take advice from the Environment Agency and the Buckingham Internal Drainage Board on all planning issues to ensure there is no increased risk of flooding in the Borough.

3.18 Areas shown to be at risk on the Environment Agency’s indicative flood plain maps are identified on the Proposals Map of the Milton Keynes Local Plan. Our Local Plan Policy S13 states that planning permission will be refused for development if it would be likely to;






  • materially impede the flow of flood water
  • restrict the capacity of the floodplain to store flood water
  • increase the number of people or properties at risk from flooding.



4.1 The Council maintains a minimum stock of 400 ready filled sandbags at its Bleak Hall Depot. Sandbags will be delivered free of charge on request to premises at risk, however the Council does not collect used sandbags and it is up to the Residents to either dispose of them responsibly or store them for future use. The Council reserves the right however to consider making a charge if owners of known high-risk sites continually request new bags.


5.1 The Council has set out its policy and approach to flood defence. It recognises the need to work in partnership with Central Government and other operating authorities. The local population also has an important part to play, in recognising the vital importance of watercourses in controlling flood risk and the need to avoid blockages, whether by dumping rubbish or otherwise obstructing flows.

5.2 The Council is committed to educating riparian owners of their responsibilities for watercourse management and will remind them of these responsibilities whenever and wherever appropriate. We will encourage members of the public to us know of any problems which might arise in this respect and which might increase the risk of flooding.

5.3 As Milton Keynes is still developing, the Council will review this policy statement within two years, and re-issue it with any revisions deemed to be necessary. Meanwhile the Council welcomes any comments on the approach and policies set out in this statement.

Last Updated: 21 October 2020