There are five bodies with responsibilities for land drainage within Somerset. These are;
- Environment Agency
- Somerset County Council (Lead Local Flood Authority)
- Internal Drainage Boards
- Sedgemoor District Council
- Riparian Owners (landowners who own land or property adjacent to a river or watercourse)
The responsible body for land drainage is determined by the clarification of the watercourse and/or the area in which the watercourse is located. There are three broad classifications of water courses and drainage infrastructure and these are summarised in the table below along with the responsible bodies.
Summary of Water Course Classifications and Responsible Bodies
These are designated by the Environment Agency and include all or part of The River Parrett, The River Axe, The River Brue, the Huntspill River, The King Sedgemoor Drain, The Sowy River, Cannington Brook and Durleigh Brook.
Ordinary Water Courses
These can be a river, stream, ditch (including dry ditches), drain, rhyne, dyke, sewer (other than a public sewer) or any passage through which water flows (culverts) which does not form part of a Main River.
The responsibilities are split between 4 bodies depending on the nature and location of the issue:
Drains and other structures taking water from the Highway
Somerset County Council Highways
Sedgemoor District Council
Sedgemoor District Council has no enforcement powers relating to Ordinary Water Courses. Investigation and enforcement of problems relating to Ordinary Water Courses are undertaken by either Somerset County Council (Lead Local Flood Authority) or the Internal Drainage Board if it is in their area.
Sedgemoor District Council maintains a number of flood relief schemes and drainage infrastructure within its district. These are located at various locations within the district. The Council would investigate any problems relating to a flood relief scheme that it maintains or drainage problems from any land that it maintains.
However under the Land Drainage Act 1991 Sedgemoor District Council has permissive powers to undertake works on an ordinary watercourse to alleviate flooding. Normally the use of such powers would only be considered where the benefits of a scheme outweigh the capital costs.
The Environment Agency
The Environment Agency, is responsible for flood defence in England and Wales. It has powers under the Water Resources Act 1991, Land Drainage Act 1991, and the Environment Act 1995 which provide for:
- Improving and maintaining Main Rivers and associated infrastructure.
- Enforcement powers relating to Main Rivers and associated infrastructure
- Issuing Land Drainage Consents for works affecting or alongside Main Rivers.
- general supervision over all aspects of flood defence
- installation and operation of flood warnings
- construction and maintenance of sea, tidal and fluvial defences
The Environment Agency can be contacted using the following details:
Telephone: 03708 506 506
Website: Environment Agency
Somerset County Council (Lead Local Flood Authority)
Somerset County Council is the Lead Local Flood Authority under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 for Somerset including Sedgemoor's area. As the Lead Local Flood Authority they have various responsibilities:
- Investigate all significant flooding incidents
- Enforcement powers relating to Ordinary watercourses and associated infrastructure
- The power to undertake works to manage surface water run-off, ordinary watercourses and groundwater.
- Statutory consultee on planning applications for major developments with surface water drainage.
- Maintain register of all flood assets
Somerset County Council Local Lead Flood Authority can be contacted using the following details:
Telephone: 0300 123 2224
Website: Somerset County Council
Somerset County Council (Highways)
Somerset County Council Highways Team have responsibility for maintaining highway drainage and investigating any problems relating to highway drainage.
Somerset County Council Highways Team can be contacted using the following details:
Telephone: 0300 123 2224
Internal Drainage Boards (IDB)
Internal Drainage Boards are the land drainage authority for the large areas of low lying land throughout Somerset. They have powers to undertake works on any watercourses within their area, other than "main rivers". The main drainage channels, known as rhynes, form a major network into which other 'field' ditches, maintained by the landowner/farmer can successfully drain. Under the Land Drainage Acts 1991 & 1994 IDBs are responsible for:
- Enforcement powers relating to Ordinary Watercourses and associated infrastructure in their areas
- General supervision over all aspects of land drainage within their area
- improving and maintaining the drainage system, including the operation of pumping stations and sluices
- regulating activities in and alongside the drainage system (other than those watercourses under the control of the Environment Agency)
- Issuing Land Drainage Consents for works affecting drainage in their area.
The Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium can be contacted using the following details:
Telephone: 01278 789906
Website: Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium
If you own land or property adjacent to a river or watercourse you are likely to be a 'Riparian Owner' and as such have rights and responsibilities associated with the watercourse. If the watercourse forms a boundary between properties generally you are responsible to the centre of the watercourse. Your legal duties include;
- the responsibility to pass on the flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others.
- the responsibility for maintaining the watercourse, and for clearing any debris, even if it did not originate from your land.
- the responsibility for keeping the watercourse clear from any matter that could cause an obstruction, either on your land, or being washed away by high flow and causing an obstruction further downstream.
Further information on riparian ownership can be found on the Environment Agency's website.