Highway Drainage

We maintain drainage systems to reduce the risk of standing water on roads, pavements and cycleways.

Gullies are used to collect and drain water off the road or pavement into a piped system or roadside ditch.  (A gully is a large pot covered by a metal grid and is usually found at the edge of a road but they can also be found in pedestrian areas).  Gullies are sometimes blocked by a build up of silt or mud coming off the road or washed off adjoining land.

Cleaning and clearing

Gullies are cleaned once a year by a mechanical gully emptying machine but any which are prone to regular silting or blocking are cleaned more often. Water is put into the gully pot to loosen the contents and then a pump is used to suck it out.  Other forms of drainage (catchpits, soakaways, pipes, highway ditches etc.) are checked and cleaned or repaired when required, or when a problem is reported to us.

Sometimes a gully may appear to be blocked but the problem could be with the drain into which the gully is connected. If these sewers or drains become blocked, localised ponding or flooding may occur, which is slow to clear. In times of heavy storms, sewers may become full but the ponding or flooding clears quickly when the rain stops and the level of flow in the sewer drops allowing the gullies to work.

Reporting problems

  • Highway drainage problem - please use our online form but if you consider the problem you are reporting presents an immediate danger, for example a collapsed or damaged manhole cover, please contact our Customer Service Centre on 0345 606 6171. (Read about the change from 0845 to 0345 numbers) 
    We try to deal with blocked drains causing flooded roads within 2 to 4 weeks. Any potentially dangerous problems caused by drainage systems are normally dealt with within 24 hours.
  • Highway drains blocked by leaves and litter - please contact the Borough or District Council for the location as they are responsible for removal of these as part of their street cleaning duties.
  • Drainage from private houses, private roads and on private land (including incoming service, waste/surface water and foul) - are the responsibility of the house/land owner or Anglian Water.  Any enquiries relating to sewage problems should also be directed to the relevant water authority, which in Suffolk is usually Anglian Water
  • Drains in car parks run by Borough or District Councils - please report to the respective Borough or District Council
  • Open ditch drainage systems next to roads are historic and the nearby landowner has responsibility for their maintenance, but we have powers to clean these ditches and/or to drain the road properly if necessary.
  • Trunk roads  (PDF, 89kb) - please contact the Highways Agency Information Line.


Home and business owners are responsible for protecting their own property against flooding.  Read our flooding information and visit the Suffolk Resilience Forum website to read a range of advice that covers preparation and protection in case of a flood and what to do in the event of a flood.
If you do not know the source of flooding problems please contact us using the email address floods@suffolk.gov.uk