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Land Drainage Act 1991 - Whose responsibility?

The 1991 land drainage act states that the land owner (know as the riparian owner) is responsible for routine maintenance of a watercourse.

This means that if you have a ditch or watercouse in or bordering your property you are the riparian owner.

Riparian owners have a duty to accept the flow of a watercourse and allow it to pass along uninterrupted.  This includes all piped watercourses under the ground.

The Borough Council's Role

The Borough Council undertakes to:

  • maintain watercourses on land it owns, because it is the riparian owner;
  • serve legal notices on riparian owners where watercourses have not been maintained;
  • carry out annual routine maintenance on strategic watercourses where it is in the interest of the wider public.  (This does not remove responsibility from riparian owners);

Council work on private land

Under the 1991 land drainage act the Council has the authority to undertake emergency maintenance works on private land.  The works can then be re-charged back to the riparian owner.


Emergency Response

The Council offers a voluntary service to provide sandbags to residents in the event of flooding.  This includes free delivery of sandbags to a private residence.  They also put out stockpiles in rural areas where access can be difficult. (In Fairlands a supply of sandbags can be found on the playing field close to the Doctors Surgery).  As this is a free service the Council cannot always guarantee delivery.  Residents are advised to look at the web page below for products that are available for protecting property as well as a link to the Institute of Chartered Surveyors. 


Flood Alleviation Projects

The Borough Council undertakes investigations and improvement schemes for flood alleviation and land drainage.  They only have limited funds available therefore all investigations and works have to be prioritised on the following basis;

1.  internal flooding to more than one property in an area;

2. internal flooding to single dwellings;

3.  flooding to outbuildings/garages;

4.  flooding to gardens;

5.  flooding to fields/farmland.

Flooding precautions for highways and public footpaths within Guildford Borough are the responsibility of the highway authority, Surrey County Council.

Development near watercourses

Residents MUST consult the Borough Council if planning any devleopment which may affect a watercourse.

This applies to all developments, from house extensions to large developments, such as housing and industrial estates.

The construction of surfaces such as roads, pavements and roofs produce higher flows which can overload the local drainage network.

If the development is close to a river or critcial watercourse and for larger developments, the Enviroment Agency may require a flood risk assessment to be carried out.






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