Watercourses, ditches, streams

Land owners are responsible for any watercourse that runs on or under their land, and usually up to the centre line of any watercourses on the boundary of their land. The Deeds of the property will also provide details of the land owner’s responsibility.  

This land owner responsibility is known as Riparian Ownership. 

A watercourse can be known as a:  

  • River
  • Brook
  • Beck
  • Ditch
  • Stream
  • Leat
  • Rill
  • Goyle
  • Rhyne or
  • Culvert (an underground structure that a watercourse can flow through) 

The Environment Agency has created a guide on Owning a Watercourse for those responsible for watercourses on their land.  

Works in and around ditches and streams

Any changes made to a watercourse that will affect the watercourse require permission. This can include putting the water into a pipe (known as culverting), installing a bridge or building a headwall. Even temporary work that will affect a watercourse, like temporarily blocking it to clear mud, will need permission.   

Main Rivers 

Works on Main Rivers require permission from the Environment Agency. You can check if the ditch you’re responsible for is a main river by checking the Environment Agency’s main river network map.  

If you need permission from the Environment Agency guidance is available online at Flood risk activities: environmental permits 

Ordinary Watercourses 

An Ordinary Watercourse is any ditch, stream or such like that is not designated as Main River. Works affecting an Ordinary Watercourse require permission from the Lead Local Flood Authority which in Mid Sussex is West Sussex County Council.  

Ordinary Watercourse Consent 

All Ordinary Watercourse Consent applications should be sent to Mid Sussex District Council who process these applications for West Sussex County Council.  

Guidance and access to the application form is available on West Sussex County Council’s Ordinary watercourse land drainage consent page. 

Applications should be made electronically and submitted to drainage@midsussex.gov.uk. Below is a checklist of information that should be submitted as part of these applications. 

  • Completed Ordinary Watercourse Consent application form (available from West Sussex County Council website) 
  • Location plan 
  • Details of the proposed works 
  • Any supporting technical drawings and calculations. 
  • For large permanent works construction details may also be required 

Following receipt of this information, the application will be recorded and a unique reference number provided. Once this has been provided the application fee should be paid using the reference. The online payment portal is accessed via the button below. If you require any support regarding making your payment, please contact drainage@midsussex.gov.uk

Online Payment Portal 

Last updated: 28 February 2024