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What is an ordinary watercourse?

An ordinary watercourse is a watercourse which does not form part of a main river and may not hold water all the time. It includes:

  • rivers
  • streams
  • ditches
  • drains
  • culverts
  • dikes
  • sluices
  • sewers and
  • passages, through which water flows that are not classified as a main river by the Environment Agency


We also have a leaflet on watercourse maintenance  which provides more detailed information.


Do you need a watercourse consent?

Small streams and ditches have an important job in draining water across our land. We know these types of channel as ‘ordinary watercourses’ but unfortunately, a lot of open channels have now been built over, filled in or piped. If you are planning on starting any work affecting or changing an ordinary watercourse, you may require permission from use before you start the work. A watercourse consent ensures any works carried out do not have a negative effect on people or the environment.


Apply for a watercourse consent

You can contact us to check if you need consent for your development  or whether it could affect the flow of water in an ordinary watercourse. If you do need consent, you will need to;

  • Fill in  the watercourse consent application  form and show that your work will not have a negative effect on the environment or flood risk
  • Make a payment of £50 per structure
  • Attach required documents (listed below)

Required documents:

  • Location plan with the site highlighted in red
  • Site plan as existing
  • Site plan as proposed
  • Detailed drawing/cross sectional drawing of the proposed works
  • Ecological statement
  • Method statement of what is proposed, how it would be done and the materials used


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