Drainage problems

Land drainage

Land drains or watercourses include water which flows through:

  • rivers
  • streams
  • ditches
  • cuts
  • culverts (piped sections)
  • dykes
  • sluices
  • passages

If a watercourse crosses or touches your land, you are responsible for maintaining it. If a watercourse runs between property boundaries, both owners are responsible. Work to watercourses often needs consent from Lancashire County Council or sometimes the Environment Agency.

We can give you advice about land drainage problems. Contact Engineering on 01282 661057.

Land drainage responsibilities

Land drainage is a complex area of responsibility. In short, landowners are responsible for the drainage of their land. If you own lower-level land, you have to accept natural land drainage water. This can be spring water, ground water or surface water run off from adjacent land that is higher than yours.

This does not apply if the adjacent landowner has made improvements that mean the run-off from the land isn't natural. For example, if they have paved over their entire back garden.

Natural run-off does not include water from gutter down-pipes.

Highway water run-off

If you own land:

  • next to a watercourse
  • with a watercourse running through it
  • with a watercourse running underneath it

then you are a riparian owner.

If you are the riparian owner of ditches alongside roads, you are responsible for maintaining the ditches. You are responsible even if the road drains into the ditch. This is because the highway boundary almost always lies along the top of the bank closest to the road. But if Lancashire County Council have used their highway powers to pipe the ditch, then they are responsible. They are also responsible for any pipes underneath the highway.

If a ditch is in bad condition, and is causing flooding on the highway, Lancashire County Council will take action under the Land Drainage Act.

Who enforces the maintenance of a watercourse?

We can serve a notice and do work if a watercourse blocks and causes a flood or health hazard. We pass the cost of any work, including administration charges, onto the landowner. We can also prosecute landowners under the Public Health Act 1936.


If you have a new building or development, and you plan to send water from it into an existing watercourse, you might have to:

  • make improvements downstream (to enable the watercourse to deal with any increased flow) or
  • provide storage to control the rate of flow from the site

Contact Planning Services for advice and guidance.

What do I do if I'm being flooded?

We can help to resolve flooding problems. Contact us to report any incidents.

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