From 6 April 2012 the regulation of Ordinary Watercourses has been transferred from the Environment Agency (EA) to the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA), Sutton Council. As a regulatory body Sutton Council is responsible for both consenting and enforcing.

What type of work needs consent?
Any works (including temporary works) that affect the flow of water through an Ordinary Watercourse will need consent from the LLFA before works can commence. In addition all works to culverts now require consent.

What is an ordinary watercourse?
A watercourse is defined in the Land Drainage Act 1991 as 'all rivers and streams, all 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'. An Ordinary Watercourse is a watercourse that has not been designated as a main river on the EA's Main River Map.

Main rivers
Main rivers are typically the larger more arterial watercourses, and are managed by the EA. Within Sutton the main rivers are the Pyl Brook (Main and East branch), the River Wandle and the Beverly Brook. Please note that the regulation of main rivers (including consents for works on main rivers) is still with the EA. A non‐statutory map of main rivers is available on GOV.UK.

Applying for consent
Before applying for consent please consider if you can complete the works without affecting the flow of water or increasing the level of flood risk. We advise that before making an application you contact us for informal advice. A simple guide titled watercourse consent diagram details which types of work do and do not need consent.

To make an application please complete the Ordinary Watercourse consent application form. You will need to enclose a payment of £50, detailed drawings of the proposed works and a method statement for the intended works.
Please read the ordinary watercourse consent guidance notes before filling in the actual application.

Consenting and enforcement advice on ordinary watercourses for lead local flood authorities.

Additional consents
Depending on the type of work that you are carrying out, additional consents for works may be required from the EA. The types of work that would require additional consent include:

  • Impounding (holding back a watercourse)
  • Disposing of waste material
  • Fish or fisheries
  • Abstracting (removing) water
  • Discharging of water
  • Enforcement powers

Under section 23 of the Land Drainage Act 1991, Sutton Council has the power to take remedial action where works or obstructions are impeding the flow of water without consent. Should the council be required to issue a notice and the notice is ignored, the council have the power to complete the works and reclaim the associated costs. If you are unsure whether work you are planning to carry out requires consent please contact the council.

Contact us: For further information or for any enquiries about consenting please email:

Michael McCarthy: