Landowners are legally responsible for surface water drainage through a series of watercourses including, main rivers, streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts and sluices etc. Landowners adjacent to any one of these watercourses are legally defined as 'Riparian Landowners' under the Land Drainage Acts of 1991 and 1994; a definition that brings certain Rights and Responsibilities with it.
Under the Water Resources Act 1991, the Environment Agency has additional responsibility to maintain water flow and carry out flood defence works along watercourses specifically classified as Main River or Critical Ordinary Watercourse.
West Sussex County Council and the Highways Agency have responsibilities for surface water drainage of the public highway.
Chichester District Council has no statutory duty with regards to land drainage, except where we have retained ownership of land. We do however have permissive powers to ensure that watercourses are properly maintained across the District, and that Riparian Landowners undertake their responsibilities, thereby not breaking the law. These permissive powers are only generally used, when landowners have demonstrated that they are not willing to carry out maintenance works on their watercourse following a request from a concerned member of the public, a Parish Council or other operating authority.
Unfortunately it remains a common misconception that the District Council maintains watercourses to prevent flooding.