Working on a watercourse

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

The responsibility to manage flood risk from ordinary watercourses (streams and ditches) rests with the Suffolk County Council as the Lead Local Flood Authority.

Main rivers are the responsibility of the Environment Agency, and applications to work on main watercourses 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. 

It is essential that anyone who intends to carry out works in, over, under or near a watercourse in Suffolk contacts the Lead Local Flood Authority (Suffolk County Council) to obtain the necessary consent before starting the work. As a guide for applicants, we have created a simple diagram which aims to make clear which kinds of work do or don't need consent.

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.

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.

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 not always able to provide the storage capacity of an open watercourse in times of heavy rain and may be more difficult to maintain. Watercourses also provide valuable wildlife habitats.

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

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