Land drains or field drains are the responsibility of the land owners to maintain where they cross or border that land or property.
Ditches and watercourses
Land drainage is the disposal of rainwater, achieved by a network of watercourses of various types. The Land Drainage Act does not state that water must flow through the watercourse at all times to be a watercourse.
A watercourse includes all rivers and streams and all ditches drains, cuts, culverts, dikes, sewers other than public sewers (within the meaning of the Water Industry Act 1991) and passages, through which water flows.
Under common law you are the riparian owner of any watercourse within or adjacent to the boundaries of your property. Where a watercourse is sited between two or more property boundaries each owner may be equally responsible.
The Land Drainage Act 1991 requires that a watercourse be maintained by its owner in such a condition that the free flow of water is not impeded. Riparian owners are also responsible for accepting and dealing with the natural flows from adjoining land. They must not create or allow an obstruction to that natural flow to occur.
Works affecting a watercourse
Under the Land Drainage Act 1991, as amended by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, if you wish to place or construct anything, such as a dam, weir, headwall or culvert, which may affect the flow in a watercourse, you must obtain the written consent of Wigan Council. This is in addition to any other consents or approvals you may need. If you are unsure, then please contact us at Engineers - Drainage.
The purpose of ordinary watercourse regulation is to control certain activities that might have an adverse flooding impact.
If you need consent from Wigan Council then please complete and submit the Consent Application Form (.pdf, 89KB) using the Guidance Notes (.pdf, 44KB)
You will need separate consents for the permanent works and any temporary works that do not form part of the permanent works. Temporary works could include, for example, cofferdams (watertight enclosures) across a watercourse, or temporary diversions of water while work is carried out.
Enforcement & Reporting
Under the Land Drainage Act 1991 the Council may take legal Enforcement action (not necessarily criminal sanction) where damaging or potentially damaging works have been undertaken without consent or are in contravention to an issued consent. Failure to abide by such a notice can result in the Wigan Council carrying out the necessary remedial work and seeking to recover costs.
Additionally, if you suspect that work to a watercourse has been executed without the appropriate consent then you can report it in confidence by contacting the Council through the Customer Services Helpline on 01942 404364.
Wigan Council as the Local Lead Flood Authority is authorised by section 23(2) of the Land Drainage Act 1991 (as amended by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010) to charge an application fee in relation to the consents required. These fees are payable to contribute to our costs for examining the proposals and the amount of the fee is £50 per structure. Value Added Tax is not applicable.
You should note that this charge is payable in respect of each structure (a culvert along with inlet and outlet headwalls would be classed as one structure), channel, pond, operation or other element forming the project and the application form should be completed as appropriate.
Fees are non-refundable in the event that an application is refused.
Please contact Wigan Council if you are in doubt about the fee applicable.
The Environment Agency (EA) has powers to maintain and improve main rivers. These powers are permissive only, so there is no obligation on the EA to carry out these works and legal responsibility for main rivers lies with the riparian owners. Individual landowners are thus still responsible for making sure main rivers are not obstructed on their land and the EA has legal powers to make landowners remove watercourse obstructions. In addition landowners must not carry out works affecting a main river without the consent of the EA.
In practice the Environment Agency (external link) will carry out maintenance work on main rivers. The Flood Line can be contacted on 0845 988 1188 (24 hour service) for General Enquiries Tel:03708 506 506 (Mon-Fri, 8am - 6pm).