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Ordinary Watercourses

As the Lead Local Flood Authority, Hampshire County Council are responsible for consenting certain works on ordinary watercourses.  An ‘ordinary watercourse' is a watercourse that is not part of a main river and includes rivers, streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts, dikes, sluices, sewers (other than public sewers within the meaning of the Water Industry Act 1991) and passages, through which water flows.

If your watercourse is part of a main river then you will need to apply for the consent of the Environment Agency for any proposed works, and not that of Hampshire County Council. To identify whether your watercourse is a main river, visit the Environment Agency’s website and view their flood maps

What requires consent?

If you intend to carry out work which may place or alter a structure within an ordinary watercourse (i.e. affect the flow or storage of water in an ordinary watercourse), you will need to apply to Hampshire County Council for consent. These can include permanent or temporary structures to facilitate more permanent works.

Please see the validation checklist  Download Adobe Reader to view this PDF 83kB for information on what is required for us to be able to process an application. Where all the documents are not supplied then the application is unlikely to proceed to processing and would be returned.

Consent Charges

The fee for applying for an ordinary watercourse consent is £50 per structure with the total cost depending on what type of work you are proposing to undertake. Please see the guidance sheet for fees for typical works Ordinary watercourse Guidance Charging schedule  Download Adobe Reader to view this PDF 101kB.

Ordinary watercourse consent - pre-application service

We also offer a pre-application service for ordinary watercourse consents that will provide more bespoke advice on your application along with guidance and advice on providing a valid consent application. There is a charge for this service, to request this please use the Ordinary watercourse consent pre-application advice form.

Consent information

Please contact us before you start your application - we may be able to advise you that consent is not required for your planned work, or give you advice that will help avoid unnecessary delays. You can ring us on 01962 846730 for an informal discussion, or email us at

Aspects to consider when applying for consent

In line with good practice, the Council seeks to avoid culverting where possible because of the adverse ecological, flood risk, human safety and aesthetic impacts. Watercourses are important linear features of the landscape and should be maintained as continuous corridors to maximise their benefits to society.

We will consider each application to culvert a watercourse on its own merits and in accordance with our risk-based approach to permitting. However we will only approve a culvert if there is no reasonably practicable alternative, or if we think the detrimental effects would be so minor that a more costly alternative would not be justified. We do however recognise that there are situations where culverting may be unavoidable, such as short lengths for access purposes or where highways cross watercourses.

Approval is also required for any temporary works affecting the watercourse and a method of undertaking will need to be submitted prior to these works commencing.

In all cases however, applicants must:

  • prove why the structure is necessary;
  • where proposing a culvert, prove that reasonable and practicable alternatives, such as open span bridges or the diversion of the watercourse have been considered
  • provide information to show that the proposed structure will not have a detrimental effect on flood risk;
  • provide information to show that the proposed structure will not have a detrimental effect on the habitat(s) and fauna and flora species present (preferably through a site inspection by a suitably experienced ecologist), or that mitigation measures, such as mammal ledges and bat roosts, can be put in place to reduce these effects.
  • consider the public safety aspects of carrying out works, as structures in watercourses can be a danger to members of the public.
  • accept sole ownership and responsibility for future maintenance.

How long does it take to get consent?

Once a consent application and the correct application fee are received by Hampshire County Council the application, will be checked and if complete, will be made ‘valid’. Assessment will then begin.

  • This authority has two months to determine the application;
  • The applicant will receive written confirmation within this period on whether consent has been given or not.
  • If the application is not considered within this timeframe, then the application is automatically given consent.

How much does it cost to get consent?

  • Please note that the application fee is £50 per structure or temporary works event.
  • For example, if the proposed scheme is for two separate culverts, then the application would be £100 (£50 x 2 structures).

Can consent be refused?

An application for consent could be refused where:

  • it is deemed that the structure being applied for is not necessary;
  • a watercourse’s flow will be obstructed; or
  • there is insufficient information contained within the application.

It is advised that applicants carefully read the guidance notes and ensure that sufficient detail is provided. If you are unclear, contact us before you send in the application.

Failure to obtain Ordinary Watercourse Land Drainage Consent

The failure to obtain an Ordinary Watercourse Land Drainage Consent prior to carrying out the works may be a criminal offence. Any person acting in contravention of Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act 1991, may be liable, on conviction, to a fine of up to £5,000, and to a further fine of up to £40 for every day on which the contravention is continued after conviction.

Under Section 24 or of the Land Drainage Act 1991 the Council has the power (without prejudice to any other criminal proceedings) to take such action as may be necessary to remedy the effect of the contravention or failure to obtain consent, and to recover the expenses reasonably incurred by it in so doing from the person in default.


Applying for Consent

To apply for consent for works affecting an ordinary watercourse you must complete the application form for an Ordinary Watercourse Land Drainage Consent and return this to us along with all accompanying items and the appropriate application fee.

It is essential the application is completed accurately and for accompanying information to be clear. If any information is missing, determination of your application could be delayed. One application form can be made for multiple structures, if located in the same area or on the same watercourse.

We would prefer applications to be completed electronically and submitted by email to where possible, with the appropriate plans and documents also attached.

However, if you need to send the application by post along with the application fee, then please send to:

Applications for OW Land Drainage Consent
Flood & Water Management
Economy, Transport & Environment Department
Elizabeth II Court West
Hampshire County Council
The Castle
SO23 8UD


Our enforcement powers

If work has been carried out on an ordinary watercourse without consent or;

Where an ordinary watercourse has not been maintained properly and could cause a flood risk.

We take a risk based approach to enforcement where works have been undertaken or lack of maintenance has occurred and there are a number of stages to this process.  In the case of works being carried out without consent, and where we deem that consent would have been required, works cannot be retrospectively consented and we may take action to have the watercourse restored to its original condition.  Where a watercourse has not been maintained properly we would aim to discuss this with the landowner to rectify the situation.  

Under Riparian Law it is a landowner’s responsibility to maintain and not obstruct any watercourse crossing their land. A guide to a landowner’s rights and responsibilities as a Riparian owner is provided by the Environment Agency.

If you have noticed works to an ordinary watercourse in your local area, please contact us on



Contact us

For further information on making changes to Ordinary Watercourses in Hampshire:

Ordinary watercourse

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