Roles and Responsibilities

A person is known as a riparian owner if they own land or property adjacent to a watercourse. By virtue of being a riparian owner they have rights and responsibilities.

Rights as a riparian owner.

  • They are presumed to own the land up to the centre of the watercourse, unless it is known to be owned by others.
  • They have the right to receive flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality.
  • They have the right to protect their property from flooding, and their land from erosion. They will in most cases need the prior consent of the Environment Agency and local authority for any works, however.
  • They have the right to fish in their watercourse, although this must be by legal methods and with an Environment Agency rod licence.
  • Without needing a licence, they can abstract a maximum of 20 cubic metres of water per day for the domestic purposes of their own household or for agricultural use, excluding spray irrigation, from a watercourse at a point that directly adjoins their land. Most other types of abstraction will require a licence from the Environment Agency.

Responsibilities of a riparian owner

  • They have the responsibility to pass on flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others.
  • They have the responsibility to accept flood flows through their land, even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream, as there is no common law duty to improve a watercourse.
  • They are responsible for maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks), and for clearing any debris, natural or otherwise, including litter and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from their land.
  • They must not cause any obstructions to the free passage of fish.
  • They are responsible for keeping the bed and banks clear of any matter that could cause an obstruction, either on their land or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct a structure downstream. Watercourses and their banks must not be used for the disposal of any form of garden or other waste.
  • They are responsible for keeping clear any structures that they own such as culverts, trash screens, weirs and mill gates.
  • They may have flood defences such as walls and embankments on their property, which are vital for the protection of both themself and others. They should discuss the maintenance of such defences with the Environment Agency office.
  • They are responsible for protecting their property from seepage through natural or man-made banks. Where such seepage threatens the structural integrity of a flood defence, it may become the concern of the Environment Agency. Before starting any work on or adjacent to a watercourse, they must submit the plans of any work to the local authority and/or the Environment Agency to determine whether they require a land drainage consent and/or planning permission. Environmental issues, including flood risk, wildlife conservation, fisheries, reshaping of the river and landscape, must all be considered. Failure to carry out their responsibilities could result in possible civil action from others.

Local Authorities (Amber Valley Borough Council)

Local authorities have certain permissive powers to undertake flood defence works and powers of enforcement under the Land Drainage Act 1991 and Public Health Act on watercourses which have not been designated as Main Rivers and which are not within Internal Drainage Board areas.(i.e. Ordinary watercourses)

The Highway Authorities (DCC.)

The local highway authority (Derbyshire County Council) has responsibility for effectual drainage of roads on the local road network, in so far as ensuring that drains, including gullies, which are their responsibility are maintained.

The Highways Agency

The Highways Agency is responsible for managing road drainage from the trunk road network in England, including the slip roads to and from trunk roads.

Internal Drainage Boards

Internal Drainage Boards (IDB's) are independent bodies, created under various statutes to manage land drainage in areas of special drainage need. These areas include not only agricultural land but also large urban areas. Each Board operates within a defined area in which they have permissive powers under the Land Drainage Act 1991 to undertake flood defence works, other than on watercourses that have been designated as 'Main'.

The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency is the principal flood defence operating authority. Under the Water Resources Act 1991, the Environment Agency has permissive powers for the management of flood risk arising from designated Main Rivers and the sea. The Environment Agency is also responsible for flood forecasting and flood warning dissemination, and for exercising a general supervision over matters relating to flood defence.

The Environment Agency is required to arrange for all its flood defence functions (except certain financial ones) to be carried out by Regional Flood Defence Committees (RFDCs). In order to carry out these functions, the Environment Agency through the RFDCs has various statutory powers including the following:

  • to maintain or improve any watercourses which are designed as Main Rivers;
  • to maintain or improve any sea or tidal defences;
  • to install and operate flood warning equipment;
  • to control actions by riparian owners and occupiers which might interfere with the free flow of watercourses; and
  • to supervise internal drainage boards.

The RFDCs are required to take an interest in all flood matters in their area and in particular to take decisions about the annual programmes of improvement and maintenance work to be carried out by the Environment Agency.

Sewerage Undertakers - (Severn Trent Water Company for AVBC Area)

Sewerage Undertakers are responsible for surface water drainage from development via adopted sewers. Public sewers should not be used for land drainage purposes. Such sewers are indicated on the public sewer record maps, copies of which are held by the local authority.

Emergency Services and Multi-Agency Emergency Planning

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and associated Regulations sets out an emergency preparedness framework, including planning for and response to emergencies. Local Resilience Forums, which include representatives from the emergency services, local authorities and the Environment Agency, should ensure that risks from flooding are fully considered, including the resilience of emergency infrastructure that will have to operate during floods. Emergency services should be consulted during the preparation of local development documents (LDD's) and the consideration of planning applications where emergency evacuation requirements are an issue. The lead authority for emergency planning within Derbyshire (including Amber Valley) is Derbyshire County Council.

Operating Authorities are any body, including the Environment Agency, internal drainage board, county council and district council that has power to make or maintain works for the drainage of land

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