If you wish to undertake certain types of work on a watercourse then you need permission from the appropriate authority. This depends on whether the watercourse is classed as a Main River or an Ordinary Watercourse. If the watercourse is classed as Main River you need to apply for consent from the Environment Agency. A map showing main rivers is available from the Environment Agency’s what’s in your backyard service. Contact details for the appropriate office dealing with your area can be found on the Environment Agency’s Website.
An Ordinary Watercourse is defined as a watercourse that is not a Main River, and includes streams, drains and ditches, and passages through which water flows. Works affecting an Ordinary Watercourse may require consent from Devon County Council or Braunton Marsh Internal Drainage Board.
Regulation is required in order to minimise the risk of flooding and to ensure that there is no increased flood risk on a particular site, avoiding any adverse effects on people and the environment. The process consists of issuing consents for acceptable work and undertaking enforcement action when appropriate to deal with unacceptable activities.
An explanation of our Culvert Policy is available regarding the consent process and design guidance. We will promote this policy to planners and developers, and use it to inform our response to applications to culvert watercourses.
Before you start
We encourage you to contact us in advance of applying for consent so that we can discuss your requirements, provide advice and ensure that your application is valid and completed correctly.
Only certain types of works, under the Land Drainage Act, require consent such as constructing or altering a mill, dam, weir, and any culvert which is likely to affect the water flow. Both permanent and temporary works affecting the flow of a watercourse may require consent.
Please read the guidance notes. Sufficient additional information must be included in order for us to determine the suitability of your proposals. You must demonstrate that your proposals will not have an adverse effect on local flood risk or the environment. You must also submit an application fee (if applicable, please contact us to confirm). This is currently £50.
Your application will be determined within two months of receiving a valid application. A valid application includes a completed application form, appropriate details of your proposals and the application fee (if appropriate). Please read the guidance notes available to ensure you have included all of the relevant information required for validation.
Enforcement action against unconsented works
Devon County Council aims to work positively with local land owners to ensure that any works are appropriate and do not increase local flood risk. In the case of works being carried out without consent, and where we deem that consent would have been required, works cannot be retrospectively consented. In these cases we will normally take action to see the ordinary watercourse is put back to the condition it was in beforehand or remedial action taken.
If you have noticed works to an ordinary watercourse in your local area, please contact us to determine whether the works required our consent and whether an application for consent was made or not.
We will take a risk-based approach to enforcement where unconsented works have been carried out on ordinary watercourses.
If you have a query regarding enforcement please contact the relevant Flood Risk Officer for your area:
East Devon, Exeter and Teignbridge
01392 38 3000 (ask for me by name)
Mid Devon, North Devon, and Torridge
01392 38 3000 (and ask for Flood Risk)
South Hams and West Devon
01392 38 3000 (ask for me by name)