Carrying out work on a watercourse

You might need permission to carry out work on or near a river, stream, flood defence or other watercourse.

Main rivers and flood defences

If you want to work on a main river (map) or flood defence you must follow the environmental permitting rules on GOV.UK.

Work within the Lower Severn Internal Drainage District

The Lower Severn Internal Drainage District covers a large area of land at Avonmouth. In this area, you must get permission to:

  • discharge surface water
  • block or change the flow of a watercourse
  • do any construction in, over, under or within eight metres of a watercourse

Other watercourses

You must apply for Ordinary Watercourse Consent for work:

  • on or near all other watercourses that changes the flow or storage of water
  • on a new water channel or tunnel (culvert)

Ordinary watercourses include streams, ditches, drains and culverts, anywhere water flows that isn’t part of a main river.

Apply for Ordinary Watercourse Consent
Download and fill in the application form (pdf, 74k) (opens new window) . Return it by email to You can also use this email address if you have any questions.

We’ll get back to you within two months to let you know if you have our consent for the work.

We might refuse your application if the change to the watercourse could increase the risk of flooding or if we need more information from you. Read the guidance notes (pdf, 159k) (opens new window) , before completing the form.

If you carry out work without consent
Carrying out work without consent could be a criminal offence. You could be fined up to £5,000 if convicted and then fined a further £40 a day until you put the watercourse back to its original condition.

Watercourse maintenance

If you’re a landowner, it’s your responsibility to maintain watercourses on your land so that they don’t increase the risk of flooding.

Find out about your responsibilities as a riverside property owner on GOV.UK.

Contact information

Flood Risk and Asset Management (City Hall)

Bristol City Council

PO Box 3176

Bristol, BS3 9FS

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm


Tel: 0117 922 3206