Highway drainage

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

Example of a road gullyThere are a number of ways to drain roads, but gullies are the most common. A gully is a large pot covered by a metal grid, usually found at the edge of a road or in pedestrian areas. 

They are used to collect surface water from the road or pavement and drain it into a piped system (generally a 'surface water sewer' maintained by Anglian Water), an adjacent stream or river (referred to as a 'watercourse') or a roadside ditch. They can become blocked by a build up of silt or mud coming off the road, or washed off nearby land.

In the tabs below you will find how blocked gullies and ditches are managed as well as the schedule for drainage clearing in Suffolk.

Cleaning and clearing

Gullies are routinely cleaned by a mechanical emptying machine. 

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 are checked, 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 piped system into which the gully is connected. Such blockages can ordinarily be cleared by high pressure water jetting the connection but, if this doesn't work, a CCTV survey may be needed to establish if the connection has been broken by other work in the road (for example, by statutory undertakers) or penetrated by tree roots. This may mean much more significant work (such as digging up the road) to repair the connection. 

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. Alternatively, if the gully connection discharges into a watercourse and the level of the stream or river is high, the water is unable to escape and can back up, causing localised flooding until the watercourse level falls again. Road flooding can also occur if the watercourse level is high and the 'tidal flap' (at the watercourse end of the gully connection and meant to prevent water going the wrong way along the connection) is either faulty or missing. 

If a gully is flooding regularly, despite being emptied as per the cycle, you can help by reporting this to us. This will help us understand whether there is a problem with the drainage system in your area.

Drainage schedule

If you have any queries about this year's drainage schedule, please email customer.services@suffolk.gov.uk.

Blocked ditches

Ditches are watercourses which can be found alongside roads to assist in the drainage of surface water. From time to time these ditches will become blocked and in particularly bad cases they may even cause a flood.

Although Suffolk County Council has the right to drain a highway into these ditches, it is the landowner's responsibility to ensure that the ditch is not blocked. 

For more information on ditches and riparian ownership, please visit our riparian ownership in Suffolk page. 

Report a problem

You can report a blocked drain or problem with a manhole cover online using our Highways Reporting Tool.

If you come across a missing or collapsed manhole cover call 0345 606 6171


You should contact your district or borough council when:

  • highway drains are blocked by leaves and litter
  • there are blocked drains in a car park run by a borough or district council

If there is a blocked drain on a trunk road, inform Highways England by phoning 0300 123 5000.

You should contact the landowner if there is a problem with:

  • drainage from private houses, roads or land (Anglian Water may also be able to help with this)
  • open ditch drainage systems next to roads

Contact Customer Service quickly and easily by webchat

  • Your questions will be answered quicker on webchat.
  • Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4:30pm (excluding bank holidays).

Click the webchat button in the right hand corner of your screen.