Working on a watercourse

Information on how to apply for a Land Drainage Consent when you need to work on rivers, ditches, or streams.

If you want to do works to a watercourse in Suffolk, it is likely that you will need to be granted consent by either us, an Internal Drainage Board, or the Environment Agency. 

Main rivers are the responsibility of the Environment Agency, and  applications to work on main rivers must be submitted to them. You can use this map created by the Environment Agency to find out whether or not the application in question is on a main watercourse. 

The responsibility to manage flood risk from ordinary watercourses (streams and ditches, etc) in Suffolk rests with us, as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA). Therefore, anyone who intends to carry out works in, over, under or near an ordinary watercourse in Suffolk must contact us to obtain Land Drainage Consent before starting the work. The reason for this is to ensure that any works do not endanger life or property by increasing the risk of flooding, or cause harm to the water environment.

As a guide for applicants, we have created a simple diagram with some common examples which aims to make clear which kinds of work do or don't need consent. Doing works without consent is illegal, and you may be required to return the watercourse to its original state at your own cost. 

Apply for land drainage consent for works affecting ordinary watercourses

Our developer guidance page contains information on our role as a statutory consultee on major planning applications.

You may request a flood map from us to find out whether the area your application sits in is predicted to be at risk from flooding. 

Suffolk County Council issue Land Drainage Act consents for most of Suffolk, however, some ordinary watercourses are managed by an Internal Drainage Board (IDB).

Before applying to us for consent, please check this map to ensure the ordinary watercourse is not within an IDB area. If you discover that the area you are proposing to do works in is managed by an IDB, please contact them directly as they will manage the consenting process. Suffolk County Council will not issue Land Drainage Consent for IDB watercourses. 

Find more information on the IDB websites:

We don't recommend piping of watercourses, and look to remove pipes to restore open watercourses wherever possible.

While a pipe may allow the flow of water, it is unlikely to be able to provide the storage capacity of an open watercourse in times of heavy rain and may be more difficult to maintain while also increasing the chances of a blockage. Open watercourses also provide valuable wildlife habitats.

For more information, it could be useful to read our consenting policy (PDF, 840KB) which aims to provide clarification of the policy towards works affecting a watercourse, particularly culverts. 

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