Calderdale property owners are being urged to take responsibility for watercourses on their land, to help reduce the flood risk to local communities.
To help them, the Council has published new guidance on the management of watercourses, which can be downloaded at www.eyeoncalderdale.com/community/watercourse-and-riparian-ownership(external link).
In the last year, Calderdale’s Flood Risk Management team has received 561 reports of incidents linked to watercourses and flood risk assets on private land, 100 of which have resulted in detailed investigations. 164 landowners have been asked to carry out remedial works and two have been issued with enforcement notices under the Land Drainage Act 1991. Lack of maintenance of a watercourse can lead to flooding, often to a neighbour’s property or across roads, making them hazardous.
Anyone who owns a watercourse that is within or adjacent to their property is classed as a riparian owner and has a number of legal responsibilities, including maintaining the watercourse, reporting incidents, preventing pollution and protecting wildlife.
This involves making sure trees or overhanging branches are properly maintained, culverts carrying a watercourse underground are running freely; keeping any trash screen, weirs and structures clear; and removing litter from the banks.
They must get permission from the appropriate authority to deliver works – the Environment Agency for main rivers or Calderdale Council for ‘ordinary watercourses’, which include most streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts, dykes, sewers (other than public sewers) and passages through which water flows.
Failure to fulfil these responsibilities may result in legal action, including the requirement for landowners to compensate for resulting damage.
Cllr Scott Patient, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, said:
“Everyone needs to take this issue seriously as it regularly results in avoidable flooding to property and contributes greatly to Calderdale’s overall flood risk.
“Whilst every effort is being made by the Council and partner organisations to ensure that landowners are doing their bit, the large number of properties with flood risk assets on their land, combined with the catchment’s tendency to respond quickly to heavy rainfall, make it extremely important for property owners to be proactive in this too.”
Helen Batt, Calderdale catchment director with the Environment Agency said:
“We have worked with Calderdale Council to produce a new leaflet to give advice to help landowners manage their watercourses and protect their land from the risk of flooding which we will be distributing around the local community.
“If you are aware of any incidents of flooding, blockages or pollution of your watercourse, we would urge you to report this to our 24 hour incident hotline on tel: 0800 80 70 60.
“It is also important that you check the flood risk of your land and sign up for our free flood warning service by visiting www.gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings(external link) to give you maximum time to take action and protect your land if necessary.”
More information, including how to prevent pollution and protect wildlife, is provided by the Environment Agency: www.gov.uk/guidance/owning-a-watercourse(external link).
There are also opportunities for landowners to work proactively with natural processes on their watercourses to reduce flood risk, improve water quality and increase biodiversity. Anyone who is interested in this can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss potential opportunities.