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Responsibility of riparian landowners

If you own land adjoining, above or with a watercourse running through it, you have certain responsibilities to manage flood risk.

Riparian owners must let water flow through their land without any obstruction, pollution or diversion which affects the rights of others. You should keep the banks clear of anything that could cause an obstruction and increase flood risk, either on your land or downstream if it is washed away.

You are responsible for maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse as well as the trees and shrubs growing on the banks, and clearing any litter and animal carcasses from the channel and banks, even if they did not come from your land.

Riparian owners must also keep any structure, such as culverts, trash screens, weirs and mill gates, clear of debris.

If you do not carry out your riparian responsibilities, you could face legal action.

Environmental permits

You must follow the environmental permitting rules if you want to do work:

  • on or near a main river
  • on or near a flood defence structure
  • in a flood plain
  • on or near a sea defence

These are regulated under environmental permits (formerly flood defence consents) which are issued by the Environment Agency. You are breaking the law if you operate without getting the permit you need.

Land drainage consent

You must obtain land drainage consent from Lancashire County Council if you want to do work on or near a watercourse. Details of the application process can be found in Lancashire County Council's Ordinary Watercourse Consenting and Enforcement policy

Report it

  • water and land pollution or blockages which increase the risk of flooding relating to main rivers should be reported to the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60
  • those relating to streams, brooks and other watercourses should be reported to Lancashire County Council
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