If you wish to undertake certain types of work on a watercourse then you need permission from the appropriate authority. This depends on whether the watercourse is classed as a Main River or an Ordinary Watercourse. If the watercourse is classed as Main River you need to apply for consent from the Environment Agency.

A map showing main rivers is available from the Environment Agency’s what’s in your backyard service .

An Ordinary Watercourse is as a watercourse that is not a Main River, and includes streams, drains and ditches, and passages through which water flows. Works affecting an Ordinary Watercourse may require consent from Bath & North East Somerset Council.

Only certain types of works, under the Land Drainage Act, require consent such as constructing or altering a mill, dam, weir, and any culvert which is likely to obstruct the flow of water. Both permanent and temporary works affecting the flow of a watercourse may require consent.

When is Land Drainage Consent for Ordinary Watercourses required?

We advise that you discuss your proposals with the Council’s Drainage & Flooding team prior to applying for Consent. The below are for guidance only and are not absolute.

Works that require Consent

  • If the structure is likely to impede the flow of a watercourse then Consent is normally required

  • Temporary works may require Consent if they result in scaffolding, a dam, over-pumping, or significant in channel works

works requiering consent

Works that would normally NOT require consent

Routine maintenance, such as tree works and removing debris from a watercourse, should not normally require Consent.

works not needing consent

Please also review:

Land Drainage Consent Guidance (PDF)

Land Drainage Consent application form (PDF)




Enforcement against unconsented works

Where works have been carried out without Land Drainage Consent, and where we deem that consent would have been required, we will normally take action to see that the Ordinary Watercourse is put back to the condition it was in beforehand or remedial action taken.

If you notice any works to an Ordinary Watercourse that you believe may be increasing flood risk please contact us to determine whether the works required Land Drainage Consent and whether an application for consent was made or not.

We will take a risk-based approach to enforcement where unconsented works have been carried out on Ordinary Watercourses.

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