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Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act (1991) prohibits the construction of certain kinds of obstructions in ordinary watercourses without the prior consent of the regulating body concerned.

Who issues consents?

Bedford Borough Council

If you are planning on undertaking any works to an ordinary watercourse, you may require consent under the Land Drainage Act 1991 from Bedford Borough Council as the regulating body.

Ordinary watercourses include streams, drains and ditches and passages through which water flows and that do not form part of a main river. Scroll down to apply.

The Bedford Group of Internal Drainage Boards

Where an ordinary watercourse falls within The Bedford Group of Internal Drainage Board's district they will be responsible for consenting. See more on how the Internal Drainage Board issues consents.

The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency regulates watercourses that have been designated as main rivers, these are classified as such on the official Environment Agency Main River Map

Visit the Environment Agency's consent page to apply for consent for works on a main river.

Type of works that require consent

Not all works are consentable activities, consent is only required for temporary or permanent works which are likely to: 

  • Alter or impact the flow or storage of water
  • Establish a new culvert within an ordinary watercourse

When considering if your works require consent, check if they would affect the flow of the watercourse when it is full to the top of the bank. If the flow of the watercourse, when it is full to the top of the bank, will be affected the work will likely need consent. If you are in any doubt about whether you require consent please email us at the address below.

Remember, even if you have planning permission or other consents you may still require consent if you intend to carry out works on an ordinary watercourses.

Why consent is needed

Work that is carried out without consent has the potential to increase flood risk to people and property and can result in civil action being taken (see more on our enforcement powers). Please note that  works cannot be retrospectively consented.

What does the legislation state?

Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act 1991 states, no person shall:

  • Erect any mill dam, weir or other like obstruction to the flow of any ordinary watercourse or raise or otherwise alter any such obstruction, or
  • Erect a culvert in an ordinary watercourse, or
  • Alter a culvert in a manner that would be likely to affect the flow of an ordinary watercourse, without the consent in writing of the drainage board concerned.

How to apply for consent from the Council

We recommend that you contact us as early as possible to discuss your plans before you apply for consent. This will enable us to determine whether your proposal affects the flow of an ordinary watercourse and if consent is needed. 

We can also advise on what to include with your application, other organisations that you may need to consult on your proposal and how long it is likely to take us to determine your application.

When all the preliminary details have been agreed we will ask you to fill in an application form. Please note that there is a fee of £50 per application (we do not charge for enquiries).


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