Sunday Times Q & A – Neighbouring Drainage
Rural expert Philip Eddell answers a variety of readers questions in the Sunday Times
Q. A neighbouring farm drains water down to the highway drainage ditch, which then drains onto my property. Apparently the work was approved by the council, I’m concerned about the damage to my land and I don’t get on with the neighbour. What can I do? GT by email.
A. Local authorities have permissive rights (rather than responsibilities) to undertake flood defence works or enforcement action under the Land Drainage Act 1991, whereas water courses designated as main river come under the control of the Environment Agency. However, land drainage rights can be a complex area of law, with other legislation and Common Law also applicable.
The general principle is that there are natural rights of drainage from higher land onto lower land, although the exception to this is where ‘improvements’ have been made – such as the paving over of land or the outflow of downspout gutters.
If you are the riparian owner, (i.e. the owner of the ditch), you will generally have a responsibility to accept natural flood water and to maintain the bed and banks, so that water can flow over your property without obstruction.
You do have the right to protect your property from flooding and erosion, but any works will normally need the prior consent of the local council or the Environment Agency.