Somerset County Council

Apply for consent to work on an ordinary watercourse


We are the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) as defined by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and the Flood Risk Regulations 2009.

Under section 23 of the Land Drainage Act there is a legal requirement to seek consent from the relevant authority before piping/culverting or obstructing a watercourse, whether permanent or temporary. This may also include repairs to certain existing structures and maintenance works.

The Environment Agency was responsible for this but it transferred to the Lead Local Flood Authority in April 2012. Consenting for works on main rivers (flood defence consent) still remains within the powers of the Environment Agency; therefore, you will need to apply for drainage consent for works on any water courses designated as main river directly to the Environment Agency. 

For more information and how to apply please visit the Environment Agency website by using the link in the Information and Resources section. Somerset County Council will lead on ordinary watercourse consenting only and enforcement; unless it is within an Internal Drainage Board area. Please refer to the map located in the Information and Resources area of this page to view the Internal Drainage Area or visit the Somerset Drainage Board website for more information about how to apply.

We will not be able to process an application if consent approval is required from either the Environment Agency or the Internal Drainage Boards; you will need to apply to them directly.

If the feature is within 8 metres of a main river you will need permission from the Environment or the IDB if 9 metres outside the IDB’s area as stated in compliance with their byelaws.

If you are not sure whether a feature is an ordinary watercourse or a main river, we can check this for you. In some cases we may request that you provide us with a plan showing the location. It may take us up to 10 days to respond to your query; however we will endeavour to respond within a couple of days. Or, you can contact the Environment Agency.

Here are definitions of terms set out in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010:
Ordinary watercourse - A 'watercourse' that does not form part of a 'main river'.
Watercourse - Includes all rivers and streams and all ditches, drains, cuts, culverts, dikes, sluices, sewers (other than public sewers within the meaning of the Water Industry Act 1991) and passages, through which water flows.
Main river - Watercourse shown as such on a main river map.
Public sewer - A sewer for the time being vested in a sewerage undertaker, etc.
Culvert - A covered channel or pipe designed to prevent the obstruction of a watercourse or drainage path by an artificial construction.

Fees will be charged at £50 per structure, we would recommend that you call us if you are unsure about the correct fees. Please note that we only accept online payment (credit or debit cards) and no longer accept cheques or bank transfers.

How to apply
Applications for consent to carry out works in an ordinary watercourse must be made online. Please make sure you have a valid credit or debit card. You must have electronic copies of your supporting documents ready before you apply. 

Apply now

To avoid unnecessary delays, please make sure that you have checked the following:

  • You are not applying using an old form

  • The water course is not a designated 'main river'

  • It is not located within an Internal Drainage Board (IDB) Area

  • You have provided all relevant information when submitting your application

  • You have provided supporting documents, including a location plan, method statements, drawing and cross-sections, and so on (Failure to supply supporting documents or the correct fee may result in your application being declined.)

Please use the guidance provided to assist you to fill in the application form. Other guidance is also provided, please read it carefully before filling in the form and submitting your application.

What happens next?
Once a decision has been made we will notify you in writing and if successful your permit will be forwarded to the address you gave us on your application form.

Consents may also include other conditions, if this is the case we will notify you in writing about any conditions which you will need to meet. Please note that you may require additional permits from other bodies. Furthermore, completed applications have a statutory 2 month determination period and an application will be granted, denied or granted with conditions. A timescale will also be given for the works to take place. Uncompleted applications will be declined if you fail to provide the required information within reasonable time.

What to do if consent is granted
You must complete the works within the completion date as specified on your certificate. You must also notify us within 7 days before the work has been completed in order to make arrangements to carry out an inspection if the works is permanent.

If the works carried out is not as stated on your LDC application
If the completed works differs from your proposals and what we have consented for, the works will be deemed as unconsented works. We may request that the structure is removed and the watercourse reinstated to its original condition. Failure to comply may result in enforcement actions in contravention of Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act 1991, you may be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale; and to a further fine of up to £40 for every day on which the contravention is continued after conviction.

If you failed to meet the conditions
If you failed to meet any of the conditions stated on Consent Certificate and consequently committed further offences or breached environmental laws, we will report this to the relevant enforcement authority.

What to do if consent is denied
Depending on the reasons for which consent has been denied. You may re-apply for consent with a new proposal and new supporting documents. A new application will be required including the correct fee.

Right of appeal
If you believe that a Land Drainage Consent had been unreasonably withheld, or that the conditions that have been imposed are unreasonable, you have a right of appeal to an independent arbitrator.

Failure to obtain Land Drainage Consent
Failure to obtain land drainage consent for an activity before carrying out works may be a criminal offence. Any person acting in contravention of Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act (1991) could face a fine of up to £5,000 if convicted, and a further fine of up to £40 for every day contravention is continued after conviction.

Under section 24 of the Land Drainage Act (1991), we have the power to take any action deemed necessary to remedy the effect of contravention of failure to gain consent, and recover the expense of doing so from the offender.

Furthermore, if you have committed further offences or breached any environmental laws or Planning Laws, we will report this to the relevant enforcement authority.

We will not under any circumstances issue retrospective consent.

Other permissions
The issue of a Land Drainage Consent by the Council does not absolve a person proposing to execute works from the need to obtain any other licences, consents or permissions which may be required by law. The Council issues Land Drainage Consents under the Land Drainage Act 1991. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that any other necessary permission from other authorities or undertakers is obtained.

Planning permissions
Planning Permissions and ‘Consent to Discharge’ in an ordinary watercourse obtained from the Planning Authority or the Environment Agency does not absolve anyone to carry out works in an ordinary watercourse.

Discharges to a watercourse
Certain discharges to watercourses require the consent of the Environment Agency, which will be able to advise you on this subject. These discharges include outfalls from septic tanks and private sewerage treatment plants.

Gravel removal from watercourses
Gravels are an important natural feature of rivers and are very valuable for fish, plants and insects, some of which are declining in England and Wales. The Environment Agency has a legal duty to protect wildlife and is concerned about the amount of gravel that is being removed from rivers and watercourses.

It is important to note that you will need the Environment Agency’s permission to remove or move gravel. It would be advisable for anyone to ask for the Environment Agency’s help and advice before carrying out any work if this involves the removal of gravel.  Please contact the Environment Agency as soon as possible if you want to remove gravel for use on your land or move gravel shoals in any river or stream.

The Environment Agency may take action against anyone who does not get their consent or follow their advice. You may also need planning permission to remove or dispose of gravel.
Some rivers and ordinary watercourses are particularly special for wildlife and are legally protected as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). You will be required to consult English Nature and obtain their permission in order to work in these watercourses.

Fish and protected species
In the event that the work involved is within a Salmonid river or contains other protected species, the timing of your works will be affected by fish spawning season. Please contact with the Environment Agency directly for advice.

Tree removal
If your proposal involves the removal of trees, the timing of your works will be affected by bird nesting season. 


Contact: Flood and Water Management Team
Address: Somerset County Council, County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY 
Phone: 0300 123 2224
Opening Hours: Monday 8am to 6pm, Tuesday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm, Saturday and Sunday closed.

If an incident occurs outside these hours please contact the Police on 101.

If you need to visit a highway area office you can find the address of your local office here.

Did you know you can report a problem on the highway or request a service online, for example report a pothole.

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