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Watercourses and ditches

Responsibility for ditches and watercourses is shared between the Environment Agency, Gloucestershire County Council, the district council and riparian owners.

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Watercourses on your land

If you own land or property next to a river or other watercourse (such as a brook, beck or mill stream) you are a 'riparian owner'. This means that you should keep the watercourse clear of any obstruction. If you don't keep the watercourse clear you may receive a legal notice.

For advice on the rights and responsibilities of riparian owners visit the Environment Agency website and view the following downloads:

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has a general responsibility for the main watercourses or rivers in the District. The Environment Agency maintains these main rivers or can serve 'notice' to make sure that riparian owners maintain them.

Forest of Dean District Council

Ditches and watercourses owned by the council are cleared regularly and are continually monitored. This work includes:

  • inspecting and clearing all associated grids and culverts to stop the build up of leaves and rubbish which could cause a blockage in the drainage system
  • inspecting ditches under private riparian ownership which may be a possible cause of flooding and, if required, contacting the riparian owner to remind them of their responsibilities

Watercourse consent forms

Under the Land Drainage Act 1991, you need consent if you want to build a culvert or structure (such as a weir) that may obstruct the flow on any ordinary watercourses.

Flood Water Management Act 2010

In 2012 paragraphs 26,27,31,32(1), (2), (3), (5), (6) and (7) 33 and 34 of schedule 2 of the Act came into force in both England and Wales. These paragraphs amend the Land Drainage Act 1991. These changes have:

  • Transferred the Environment Agency's responsibility for flood defence consents and enforcement powers under sections 23, 24 and 25 of the Land Drainage Act 1991 (LDA) to Lead Local Flood Authorities.
  • Removed the following powers from the Environment Agency in relation to ordinary watercourses:
    • concurrent flood risk management powers (section 8 of the LDA)
    • default powers in relation to flooding (section 9(1) of the LDA) and
    • enforcement powers in relation to watercourse, bridge or drainage maintenance obligations (section 21 of the LDA)
  • Amended the prohibition on obstructions to ordinary watercourses to preclude the erection of any culvert without prior consent, and allows the relevant authority to attach reasonable conditions to a consent issued under section 23 of the LDA; and
  • Have Removed the powers to require works for maintaining flow of watercourses from district councils (section 25 of LDA).

If you have any questions about section 23 and 25 of the Land Drainage Act call 01993 861333 or email