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Land drainage and flood risk management


It is important that watercourses are maintained to ensure that they have maximum capacity and efficiency to convey water and therefore cope during adverse weather.

If you own land or property adjoining, above or with a watercourse running through it, you have certain rights and responsibilities. In legal terms you are a 'riparian landowner'.

The responsible party for a watercourse is generally the riparian landowner. Where a boundary between two landowners is defined in the deeds as a watercourse, a landowner owns up to the centre of that watercourse, and as such is responsible for its maintenance.

A watercourse is a bed, channel or conduit through which water flows (e.g. river, stream, brook, ditch, etc). This includes culverts (a covered channel or pipe) which conveys a watercourse (except for sewers which carry foul waste).

The Environment Agency provides guidance on the rights and reponsibilities of riparian landowners.

Role of the council

Lancaster City Council has responsibility for maintaining watercourses and defences which the council owns, or has a legal obligation to maintain. Our work includes:

  • Maintaining council-owned pumping stations
  • Maintaining council-owned watercourses.
  • Operating and maintaining existing sea defences and carrying out other works to manage flood risk from the sea (with the consent of the Environment Agency)
  • Designing, planning and project managing Environment Agency funded flood risk management projects

Role of the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency is responsible for the strategic overview of all flooding and coastal erosion management. They also directly manage flood risk from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries and the sea. Main rivers are usually larger streams and rivers, but some of them are smaller watercourses of local significance. Main rivers are marked on an official document called the main river map which is available from the Environment Agency.

Planning Applications

The Lead Local Flood Authority (Lancashire County Council) is consulted on all major planning applications and comments on the proposals and their likely effectiveness in managing flood risk both on and off site. It is crucial that development does not have negative impacts on flood risk in the Lancaster district.

The Environment Agency provides guidance on flood risk assessment for planning applications.

Please contact if you have any queries about planning proposals and what we expect from applicants.

Flood Risk Management

The Environment Agency has permissive powers to manage flood risk from main rivers and the sea.

Lancaster City Council is the risk management authority for the district and can design and submit flood risk management scheme proposals for flood risk management from sources other than main rivers. We are also the coastal protection authority for the district and take the lead in managing flood and coastal erosion risk management in the district, as well as coastal monitoring throughout Morecambe Bay.

Lancashire County Council is the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for the county and has permissive powers to manage flood risk from ordinary watercourses, highways, surface water and ground water. An ordinary watercourse is every river, stream, ditch, drain, cut, dyke, sluice, sewer (other than public sewer) and passage through which water flows, but which does not form part of a main river. The LLFA has powers on ordinary watercourses similar to the Environment Agency's powers on main rivers.

United Utilities is the water authority for the area and manages flood risk from sewers and utility pipes.

The authorities above are all flood and coastal erosion risk management authorities (RMAs) who work together and with others to manage flood risk. They should also help communities understand their flood risk, prepare for flooding, and encourage community involvement in risk management decision-making and actions.

The Flood Hub website is a one stop shop for flood information and resources to support householders, businesses and communities across the North West in becoming more flood resilient. The website pulls together guidance from multiple sources to produce a hub of information that gives an overview of flood resilience and it's many related topics.

Last updated: 28 October 2021

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