Ordinary watercourse consents

Table of Contents

Following the enactment of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, as a Lead Local Flood Authority, became the consenting authority for proposed works within an ordinary watercourse which require consent under section 23 of the Land Drainage Act.  

These are any works within the cross section of a watercourse, such as a pipe, or any other structure affecting the flow of water. 

What is an Ordinary Watercourse?

An Ordinary Watercourse is any river, brook, stream, culvert or passage through which water flows which is not designated as a Main River. Ordinary watercourses are also commonly not recorded on maps.

If the section of the watercourse you would like to alter is part of a Main River, you would need to contact the Environment Agency to obtain an Environment Agency Environmental Permit.  You can check if the watercourse is a Main River by checking the Environment Agency’s Main River Map.

When would I need Ordinary Watercourse Consent?

You will need consent to erect any structure if it will affect the flow of water within the channel of an ordinary watercourse, even on a temporary basis. This could include installing a culvert, bridge, dam, pond or other structure that would change the banks or alignment of the watercourse.

You can check the guidance below for further information and examples of structures requiring consent.

How do I apply and what information do I need to provide?

In order to apply, please complete our online application form below. 

For this application you will need to provide supporting evidence such as, but no limited to:

  • Site Plans;
  • Cross sections of the watercourse before and after the proposed work;
  • Method statements detailing how the work will be completed;
  • Maintenance plans.

If your application if for a more complex structure, further information such as calculations may be required to evidence that the works will not increase flood risk.

What is the cost?

As set out in the Land Drainage Act 1991, Section 23 states that there will be a £50 application fee per consent. Each individual structure constitutes a different application.

Structures in the same location can be applied for on the same application form however applications for structures in different locations will require separate applications.

Temporary works and permanent works will also need to be applied for separately. 

If you are unsure on the number of structures your proposal has, please contact us

You will be able to pay for this application once the form has been completed.

It should be noted that applications will only be valid once both information and payment have been submitted.

Why do I need to apply?

Consent must be granted before works can take place and is also required for sites where planning permission has already been granted.

We cannot grant consent retrospectively for works that have been completed or are in progress. If works are being carried out without consent, we may require the watercourse be returned to its original condition as per our powers under section 24 of the Land Drainage Act 1991.

How long will my application take?

The Act also sets a statutory deadline for consent applications. We can take a maximum of two months to consider your application from the date of receipt of application and payment. If you are not informed of a decision within this timeframe, consent is automatically granted.

Why may my application not be successful?

An application could be refused for both technical and evidential reasons. An example of this is that there is a general presumption against culverting watercourses in the UK. This means that a valid reason for piping a watercourse is required before consent can be granted. If there is evidence that alternatives have been investigated, this should be provided with the application. 

Other reasons for refusal may include:

  • The proposals increase flood risk to the site or elsewhere;
  • Insufficient information has been provided to assess the application;
  • There are alternative solutions which would cause less impact to the watercourse such as retaining an open channel;
  • There are adverse impacts to biodiversity within the channel. This is linked to the Water Framework Directive.

Any questions?

You can contact the team with any questions via flooding.enquiries@rbwm.gov.uk or call through the contact centre on 01628 683800.


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Flood risk team

For further information, please contact us by:

Flood risk team - Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
Town Hall, St Ives Road
Maidenhead SL6 1RF