Flooding and land drainage
The main function of the engineering, drainage and water team under flooding and land drainage duties is to limit and control flood damage, by forward planning and making sure the district’s surface water and land drainage systems perform satisfactorily.
Ordinary watercourses are maintained by the riparian owners. Maintenance and upkeep of watercourses is the responsibility of riparian owners. A riparian owner is anyone who owns a property alongside a watercourse.Main Rivers are usually larger streams and rivers, but also include some smaller watercourses. They appear on a ‘main river’ map as they are deemed by the Environment Agency as being of strategic importance.
Under the Land Drainage Act 1976 the Council was given powers to introduce its own Land Drainage Byelaws and these were introduced in 1983. These Byelaws conferred, amongst other powers, the right for the Council to issue Land Drainage consents for any works on, over or within 8 metres of an ordinary watercourse. The administration of the system of consents is with the proviso that the Council's powers are only valid, if the Council is acting to prevent, mitigate or minimise the risk of flooding.
The Epping Forest District Land Drainage bye-laws say that formal agreement must be granted for any new development or re-development on, over, adjoining or connecting to a watercourse. Most ‘land drainage consent’ applications are identified during the planning or building control stages. This control is important, as uncontrolled development can cause flooding by generating large volumes of extra water, or blocking or constricting existing watercourses.We regularly inspect works carried out on watercourses by land owners, and works carried out within 8 metres of watercourses that require land drainage consent.
Charges for land drainage consent
In line with the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 currently being implemented by local authorities who have responsibilities for surface water management, Epping Forest District Council, on behalf of Essex County Council, introduced a charge from 5th August 2013 for issuing the required land drainage consent to undertake certain works affecting some ditches and watercourses.The Land Drainage Act 1991 allows local authorities to charge for consenting to works that involve installing structures on, or to, or around ordinary watercourses, for example piping ditches associated with new vehicle crossings. Epping Forest District Council in consultation with Essex County Council has opted for a charge of £50 per structure per consent in relation to works as covered in Section 23 of the Land Drainage Act 1991 (as amended by the Flood & Water Management Act 2010).It should be noted that all other consents issued under Epping Forest District Council’s Land Drainage Bye Laws remain free of charge in order to encourage residents and developers to engage with the Council to ensure that ditches and watercourses are protected and maintained to help reduce the risk of flooding throughout the district.For further information please refer to the land drainage pages on the council’s website, or contact the council on 01992 564608 and ask to speak to a land drainage officer, or contact the Engineering, Drainage and Water Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The engineering, drainage and water team is consulted by the planning directorate on any development which may increase flood risk or may be affected by the Land Drainage Byelaws (i.e. within 8m of a watercourse). Engineers review larger planning applications for compliance with PPS25 and recommending conditions for planning consents.The measures implemented through planning controls (conditions) and land drainage consents are aimed at minimising surface run-off (through attenuation and sustainable drainage systems - SUDS) rather than just maintaining the efficiency of the existing system. This approach is known as source control of run-off which is one of the Government’s preferred initiatives.Epping Forest District Council has introduced flood risk assessment zones (FRAZ’s) which are catchments of watercourses identified by the council that may contribute to main river watercourses or where there is a known risk or history of flooding. Within these zones any large developments will require a site specific flood risk assessment (FRA) to demonstrate that the development will not increase risk of flooding either on site or downstream as a consequence of possible increases in storm runoff that may be generated.This is so that decisions on plans and applications in areas of existing and future developments can take full account of flood risk, both to the development itself and off site. Enforcement Action under 1991 and 1994 Land Drainage Acts and Byelaws 2005.By statute, the infringement of the Acts and Byelaws is a criminal offence and we can prosecute offenders, and carry out necessary and appropriate remedial works which the offender is legally liable to pay for.Anyone who owns land or property adjacent to a watercourse must have our agreement to carry out works within eight metres of the watercourse. If we have not agreed, and the works affect the satisfactory operation of the drainage system, we can take legal action for the owner to remove the works.
Under the district’s bye-laws, routine maintenance and upkeep of watercourses is the responsibility of riparian owners. A riparian owner is anyone who owns a property alongside a watercourse. For further information see document on Riparian Owners - Guidance Notes.
For some watercourses and channels, this means we are the riparian owner and has riparian responsibilities. In practice this means regular inspection of the district’s watercourses to ensure they are free running, not suffering from encroachment or from illegal tipping, blocking or other activities which could restrict the flow of water in them. It also entails identifying where maintenance, rehabilitation or new works are required to ensure a satisfactory system of drainage. Minor works are designed in house and carried out by the annual maintenance contractor under the supervision of the engineering, drainage and water team. Our contractors also routinely clear storm drainage grilles, which protect piped watercourses or pipes under roads, to make sure they do not get blocked and cause flooding. The Environment Agency manages and polices the main rivers, also undertaking its own clearance and maintenance activities.
The engineering drainage and water team’s activities in this area include responsibility for drawing up the action plan for response to severe weather warnings and Environment Agency flood warnings. This necessarily includes close liaison with the EA, Council and County emergency planners such that warnings are effectively understood and responded to. In practice, for minor local flooding this means direct mobilisation of the annual maintenance contractor to either deliver and place sandbags, or to undertake emergency clearance.For larger incidents the whole section is mobilised (through the emergency planning team) to monitor and manage the District’s flood defence assets and work with the public and emergency services to ensure as effective a response as is possible.We offer an emergency supply of sandbags if there is an unexpected and serious threat of flooding. Sandbags can be sent to sites where the current levels of protection are likely to fail, resulting in flood damage to buildings or their contents.Please note, this is a voluntary service - we cannot guarantee to place sandbags at all the sites that might need them, it is the residents or owners responsibility to protect themselves.Advice and liaison with other authorities in respect of land drainage and flooding matters.We are in regular contact with various authorities including Town Councils, Parish Councils, Neighbouring District Councils, Essex County Council, The Environment Agency, Lee Valley Regional Parks Authority, and The Corporation of London.
Flood storage reservoirsAs a result of a long history of serious local flooding from rivers and watercourses, the Council has either on its own (at North Weald) or in conjunction with the Environment Agency (at Loughton and Thornwood) carried out construction of a series of flood alleviation schemes.Under the Reservoirs Act of 1930, this Authority has a statutory duty to maintain those reservoirs (flood alleviation schemes) which it has constructed. It also has a practical duty to ensure that the investment of over £4m in those schemes is realised by ensuring that they continue to operate to alleviate flooding. This is achieved through regular operation and maintenance using the Council’s annual maintenance contract.Storm pointsThe other significant flood defence asset maintained by the council is a system of over 50 storm points (trash-grilles or screens) throughout the district. These screens protect critical culverts from blocking, allowing any debris to be collected before it enters and blocks the culvert. We regularly inspect storm grilles and watercourses that are liable to block and flood during storm events.
The annual maintenance contract (AMC) that we have with a specialist contractor ensures the upkeep and maintenance of flood defence assets that have been constructed by the council, or are on council owned land.The annual maintenance of rivers and watercourses for which the council is Riparian Owner under Common Law (by way of adjacent land ownership) is carried out by the EDWT section by utilisation of the Annual Maintenance Contractor.
The flood storage reservoirs within the district are fitted with telemetry which monitors water levels. The assets can be checked remotely, 24 hours a day, to ensure they are functioning correctly and that there are no issues, especially during storm events.
The engineering, drainage and water team uses CCTV to closely monitor a strategic storm grill within the district. The grill is particularly susceptible to becoming clogged during storm events, and residential and commercial properties become at risk of flooding if this occurs. We are able to monitor the storm grill remotely, 24 hours a day, to ensure the grill is kept clear at all times to reduce the risk of flooding to residential and commercial properties.*(*The Environment Agency is actually responsible for clearance of this grille as it is on a ‘main river’ water course, however the EDWT monitor the grille for additional safety.)
There are many local areas of flooding which still need addressing and schemes for Nazeing, Buckhurst Hill and Abridge are currently at feasibility study stage.The Environment Agency management activities include carrying out specific projects to protect areas that are particularly prone to flooding.Recent projects include the Waltham Abbey (Upshire) flood alleviation scheme, North Weald and Thornhill flood alleviation schemes; and, working with the Environment Agency, the Loughton Brook and Thornwood schemes. We are now monitoring and maintaining these schemes on a regular basis to ensure their continuing effectiveness.Other drainage projects include correcting bank erosion problems. As the riparian owner, we must make sure our land and adjoining highways and footways are secure.