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Regulation of ordinary watercourses

Riparian land ownership is a legal term given to a landowner who owns land adjacent to a watercourse (river, stream, ditch etc.). Riparian landowners are responsible for maintaining the flow of water through their land and obtaining prior approval before carrying out any alterations.

The Council has the power to regulate ordinary watercourses and if issues are found the Council can enforce the following:

  • the requirement to carry out repairs;
  • the requirement to remove or modify unconsented works, or;
  • the requirement to undertake routine maintenance to maintain the flow of water.

The Environment Agency has the power to regulate the Main River network and the Sow and Penk Internal Drainage Board is responsible for the regulation of ordinary watercourses within their operational area, which is located in a small catchment in and around Stafford.

When an issue is brought to our attention, we will take a risk based approach when determining whether we should carry out works. There are many factors that may influence our decision, but key issues include:

  • the potential for internal flooding of residential / commercial buildings;
  • the potential for flooding of important infrastructure, and;
  • the potential for adverse environmental effects.

We will try to resolve the majority of issues through cooperation with riparian landowners, thus avoiding the need for us to use our formal enforcement powers.

Staffordshire County Council, as Highway Authority, can carry out works in relation to flooding and drainage affecting the public highway. There are also common law responsibilities for land owners to maintain roadside ditches and watercourses.

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