So who’s job is it to keep the ditches clear and clean?

So who’s job is it to keep the ditches clear and clean?

It is perhaps as well to reinforce some of the guidance received from the representatives of Highways and Flood Water Management from Somerset County Council. 

Maintaining and keeping clear, drainage ditches alongside a property or land are the responsibility of the land owner not Somerset County Council. Some residents have questioned the highways modifying drainage routes into the ditches alongside their property.  The Highways have the authority to create “snipes” from the road into these drainage ditches to aid the drainage from the highway.

The “River” Isle starts just after Hornsbury Mill, to the east of the A358 where the Isle joins the water flowing out of Chard Reservoir. This is where the Isle is a “Main River” and it comes under the authority of the Environment Agency (EA). The NRA (National Rivers Authority) duties were taken over by the EA in 1996.

The Isle river within our Parish is known as an “ordinary water course”.

An ordinary water course could be a river, stream, ditch, drain or brook. Under common law, ordinary watercourses are the responsibility of the riparian owner. This is whoever owns the land that the watercourse flows through or alongside. The responsibility of maintaining and keeping ordinary watercourses clear is the responsibility of the land owners of the banks on either side of that water course.  Where the watercourse runs alongside the highway, those responsibilities fall solely upon the owner of the bank on the other side of the highway.

Where an ordinary watercourse passes under a highway, by means of a culvert or other, it may be the responsibility of the Highways but this is not always so and residents should seek guidance from SCC highways for confirmation. The County Council maintains an inventory of culverts in or under the public highway, together with ownership details. Where the ownership of a watercourse culvert cannot be established, then it is generally assumed to be the responsibility of the riparian owner.

Drains and sewage pipes. The property owner is responsible for maintaining or repairing any drains and sewage pipes inside the boundaries of their property – these are private drains. Generally lateral drains that you share with your neighbour – are the responsibility of the relevant water authority and they should be able to advise on this.

If you’re not sure whether your property is connected to a public sewer or a private one, you can:

check with your sewerage company, or

check the deeds of your property, or

check a sewer map – your sewerage company must make these available to you if you ask or

check with your local authority


Drains and ordinary water courses under private or unadopted roads are generally the responsibility of the property owners who enjoy the use of those roads


Tony Sauer.

Combe St Nicholas Parish Council.

Combe St. Nicholas Parish Council