Who will be the Consenting Body for Ordinary Watercourses?

Written By: County Drainage Engineer, Oxfordshire County Council

Photo courtesy of Micro Drainage Limited®

Flood and Water Management Act: Who will be the Consenting Body for Ordinary Watercourses?

The Government in its wisdom has decided to spread the enactment of the Flood and Water Management Act over a period of at least two years. From a recent meeting I attended, I understand from Defra that another element of the Act will be announced this October or perhaps next April, and this is who will be the Consenting Body for Ordinary Watercourses. Although this may be one of the small changes the Act makes, it is quite important.

At the present time the Environment Agency are the Consenting Body for culverting, maintaining or making alterations to ordinary watercourse and they will charge you a standard £50 fee for this application, but if you carry out any of the works without permission they will instruct the local District Council to take enforcement action against you.

The proposal in the Act was for the Lead Flood Authority to take over this consenting action from the Environment Agency, but all this would do is replace the Environment Agency with the Lead Flood Authority and would leave the two functions with separate bodies. It would seem to me that the consenting action and the enforcing action should go together. Therefore transferring this consenting action on ordinary watercourses along with the standard £50 fee(or even increase it to a realistic rate), would seem a reasonable idea; it would help the District Councils fund their Land Drainage Engineering sections.

What I propose is I believe is common sense, but this does bring up one problem, in Oxfordshire one of our District Councils has decided that this new Act can save them money by retiring off their Engineering staff and saying to the County Council / Lead Flood Authority, all Land Drainage issues “Over to You”. I know a County Council can take over Land Drainage from a District Council, if the District is not carrying out the function correctly, but I do not believe it can reclaim costs from the Landowner for taking out enforcement action, but I may be wrong.

Photo courtesy of Micro Drainage Limited®

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