The ordinary watercourse land drainage consenting process is in place to ensure that any works carried out do not have a negative effect on people or the environment. It also ensures that any works which may affect flood risk are properly designed.

Who to contact

If you have any plans to undertake works on an ordinary watercourse, it is advised that you contact the SuDS and watercourse team at the earliest possibility.

Call: 01992 558348



The Environment Agency deals with applications for consent for works on or near a main river. This is under separate legislation and the application process has separate requirements and conditions.

A main river is a watercourse shown as such on a main river map. They are predominantly large watercourses (e.g rivers such as the Colne, Lee, Ver etc).

If you are unsure as to whether a particular watercourse is considered an ordinary watercourse, please refer to the what is an ordinary watercourse section.   

How to apply for Land Drainage consent   

You should seek to keep or restore the watercourse as natural as possible with preference given to open channels instead of piped sections.

Applications can be submitted using:

In some cases, other pieces of legislation will have a bearing on the proposed works. These include:

  • Water Framework Directive
  • The Environment Act
  • Habitat Regulations

To assist with the Water Framework Directive impact, we have provided you with some guidance:

An application fee will apply under the Land Drainage Act 1991. You can find details of the charging rates in the ordinary watercourses fees and charges document.

Unconsented works  

As the Lead Local Flood Authority, we may take enforcement actions under section 24 of the Land Drainage Act 1991, where damaging or potentially damaging works within watercourses have been undertaken without consent or are in contravention to an issued consent. Consent cannot be given retrospectively.

Therefore any obstruction to an ordinary watercourse which has not previously been given consent, could lead to enforcement action.