We are the lead local flood authority and the 'operating authority' for all ordinary watercourses in County Durham.
We have powers to require the maintenance of watercourses to ensure they are operating efficiently and must approve any works to or in our watercourses.
Land drainage is the disposal of rainwater, achieved by a network of various types of watercourse. The laws relating to land drainage are not very well known and many people are unaware of their existence.
Major watercourses and rivers are designated as main rivers. These are under the control of the Environment Agency who are the relevant operating authority. We can advise you which are the main rivers, but all enquiries relating to the operation of main rivers will be referred to the Environment Agency.
Almost all other watercourses, including streams, ditches (whether dry or not), ponds, culverts, drains, pipes and any other passage through which water may flow, are defined as ordinary watercourses. We are the operating authority for ordinary watercourses. Exceptions to this are:
If you own a riverside property you can find more information about your responsibilities on our managing the county's flood risk page.
There are a number of pieces of legislation to ensure that the land drainage network operates correctly.
If you wish to place, construct or alter anything such as a dam, weir, headwall or culvert which may affect the flow in a watercourse, you must get our written consent. Please contact us to discuss your proposal before submitting your application. An application fee of £50.00 is required to cover our costs for examining the proposals. Please note, these consents are in addition to any planning or building regulation approvals you may need.
If you carry out work without first obtaining formal written consent, we can serve a notice requiring you to stop work within a specified time. If you fail to comply with the notice then we may carry out the necessary work ourselves and recharge the person responsible for the full cost incurred, or we can take the matter to court where a fine may be imposed.
Contact us for further advice on the above.
The riparian owner of a ditch alongside a road is normally the adjoining landowner, as the highway boundary invariably lies along the top of the bank closest to the road. Therefore, although the road may drain into the ditch, the landowner is responsible for maintaining it.
However, if we have piped the ditch, we may become responsible for its maintenance. Likewise, any pipe beneath the highway is our responsibility. When the condition of a ditch is causing flooding on a highway, we will take action under the Land Drainage Act.