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Watercourse guidance will inform Cambridgeshire residents of rights and responsibilities

Guidance has been prepared for county residents to inform them about their rights and responsibilities in maintaining watercourses.

The guidance is for residents, communities, and organisations across Cambridgeshire who have a watercourse on or adjacent to land they own or tenant, as part of the Cambridgeshire Community Flood Action Programme.

The objectives of the guidance are to provide:

  • Detailed information on rights and responsibilities for watercourse maintenance
  • An introduction to roles and responsibilities for flood risk management authorities
  • Easy to follow guidance on how to maintain a watercourse
  • Easy to follow guidance on how to reinstate a piped or culverted watercourse, and how to re-naturalise a watercourse.
  • Signposting to other relevant and useful resources

This guidance covers everything that can affect watercourse maintenance, from birds and bats to hedges, highways, and ancient monuments.

There are eight documents available on our website: Watercourse guidance - Cambridgeshire County Council

  • Non-technical summary - A non-technical summary of the guidance which covers all the main points to know about watercourse maintenance.
  • Survey analysis - Our Watercourse Guidance Survey ran throughout September 2021. The survey was advertised via our social media channels and shared with the public and organisations including parish councils, the National Farmers Union, and Internal Drainage Boards. We have prepared an analysis of the results which shows how they have informed the structure and content of the guidance.
  • Rights and responsibilities for watercourse maintenance - Rights and responsibilities for watercourse maintenance are a presumption outlined in common law, which dates back to the Tudor times. This document explains who is responsible for watercourse maintenance in a variety of scenarios and provides useful diagrams and examples.
  • Roles and responsibilities for Flood Risk Management Authorities - We have created this document to introduce the roles and responsibilities for flood risk management authorities in Cambridgeshire. Whilst watercourse maintenance is a riparian responsibility, flood risk management is the responsibility of a variety of authorities in the UK.
  • Watercourse maintenance guide – This guidance document has been prepared by Cambridgeshire County Council for those with watercourse maintenance responsibilities.
  • Watercourse Maintenance Template Plan - A useful template maintenance plan
  • Watercourse reinstatement guide - This document covers reinstating (or ‘daylighting’) a culverted watercourse back to being an open watercourse, and re-naturalising watercourses.
  • Resources - The resources document includes useful further reading, handy links and contacts.

For more information or to request a printed copy of the Watercourse Guidance contact us at:

  • Email: floodandwater@cambridgeshire.gov.uk
  • Call: 0345 045 5200 between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, ask for a member of the Flood Risk team
  • Address: New Shire Hall, Box ALC2619, Emery Crescent, Enterprise Campus, Alconbury Weald, PE28 4YE
  • Request guidance online here

A virtual webinar to provide advice and support to community flood groups and anyone interested in flooding is also being run by Cambridgeshire County Council.

The Flood Preparedness Webinar will be held on Wednesday, 14 December at 6pm, and speakers will also give advice on how to prepare for periods of heavy rainfall.

To sign up for the webinar, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/flood-preparedness-webinar-tickets-476354799027.