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What is an ordinary watercourse?

An ordinary watercourse is a small stream or ditch which drains away water. If an ordinary watercourse touches your property you are a riparian owner, and have a legal responsibility to maintain any watercourses running over your property. 

What are your legal obligations as a Riparian Owner? Consult this guide: Ordinary Watercourse Maintenance Guide or watch the video below:


Do you need ordinary watercourse consent?

You need consent if your work or structure will affect the flow of water or cross-sectional area of an ordinary watercourse. This applies to both temporary and permanent changes. You must have consent before you begin work.

Who issues ordinary watercourse consent?

Essex County Council is the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA). We issue consent for ordinary watercourses under Section 23 Land Drainage Act (1991). If you begin work without consent, we have the authority to change or remove it.

The Environment Agency regulates larger watercourses that have been identified as main rivers. You can find these on their main river map.

Get support and advice about your works with our pre-application service.


Apply for a watercourse consent


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