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Agenda Item No 11


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Community Liaison Committee: 3rd July 2018


Report of the Director of Environment and Housing


Localised Flooding on Rural Roads and Re-introduction of Ditches to Agricultural Land


Purpose of the Report

  1. To advise Committee of localised flooding on rural roads & reintroduction of ditches to agricultural land.


  1. That Committee notes the contents of the report and the legal responsibilities of various parties associated with the maintenance of surface water drainage affecting the adopted highway and rural roads.
  2. That Committee notes the Council's current records and maintenance arrangements of its surface water drainage assets for the adopted highway, including rural roads.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To advise Committee of the legal responsibilities of various parties for the maintenance of surface water drainage affecting the adopted highway and rural roads.
  2. To advise Committee of the Council's current records and maintenance arrangements of its surface water drainage assets for the adopted highway, including rural roads.


  1. Land Drainage is a complex area of responsibility. The powers of Council's as highway authorities are constrained by statute and common law, however, the general approach is that the landowner is responsible for the land drainage of their land whether this is agricultural land or used for any other purpose.
  2. The Council as the Lead Local Authority (LLA) has responsibility for ordinary watercourse consenting and enforcement in accordance with Land Drainage Act 1991. The term ordinary watercourse applies to all water courses that are not classed as main river. Main rivers are the National Resources Wales' responsibility. The term "watercourse" includes all rivers, streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts, dykes, sewers and passages through which water flows except public sewers.
  3. The Council maintains highway surface water drainage systems located within the existing adopted highway throughout its local highway network. This includes highway gullies and associated pipework as well as any open ditches and drains alongside the carriageway and comprising the adopted highway.
  4. The Highways Act 1980 (as amended) and various other Acts, give the highway authority the power to deal with nuisances and dangers on the highway. This includes nuisance and danger caused by flooding of the adopted highway which can be considered an obstruction of the highway.
  5. The Highways Act 1980 also gives powers to the highway authority to construct drains and to discharge water onto adjacent land, paying compensation for any damage done. If such drainage work is considered necessary attempts are made to make contact with the landowner and seek agreement. We will investigate issues where excessive water is discharging from adjacent land on the highway.
  6. The standard and quality of highway surface water drainage systems varies significantly across the area depending on the location, designation of road and age of the system. Some older and rural roads historically have less sophisticated or no formal highway drainage. In rural areas the provision and maintenance of highway drainage is generally restricted by existing highway constraints, landownership and the significant cost of new drainage infrastructure. It is necessary to clean and maintain existing drainage provisions so that they can work properly.
  7. Highway surface drainage systems are not designed to remove water from nearby land or properties or to act as an overflow for land drains, watercourses or sewers.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Where it exists, the provision of drainage of the local road network assists to collect and remove surface water from the carriageway as quickly as possible to provide safety and minimum nuisance to the travelling public. Surface drainage also serves to protect the integrity of the highway itself. Road surface drainage using kerbs and gullies is commonly used in urban areas whilst letts and ditches are more common in rural areas due to the characteristics of the local environment.
  2. The capacity of highway surface water drainage is generally designed to cope with storm return periods of 1 in 5 years without flooding. Highway drainage infrastructure is not designed to deal with extreme or severe rainfall events and under such circumstances the capacity of the system can quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of water trying to run off from the road and short-term flooding can occur. Puddles and standing water can also occur if there is a depression in the road surface.
  3. The Council maintains a basic record of the location and type of the highway surface water drainage asset that it has responsibility for on a mapping system. This system provides the location of gullies (strategic and non-strategic) and extents / quantities of letts and ditches to be cleansed and maintained within the adopted highway. Currently, there is also no definitive record or data base to identify the location and extent of buried highway surface water drainage pipework for which the Council is responsible.
  4. In order to reduce the incidents of road flooding the Council undertakes annual proactive maintenance of all highway gullies, letts and ditches on its local highway network or in such other locations as fall within its responsibility as landowner in various areas of the County. The Council also maintains certain soakaways, ponds and culverts on adopted highway and other land where there is relevant agreements in place for such work.
  5. Furthermore and wherever necessary, the Council undertakes investigation, cleansing, maintenance, remedial and improvement works to all its highway surface water drainage assets on an ad hoc basis when a problem is reported to resolve any identified highway drainage or flooding issues on any part of the Council's adopted highway network. Wherever practicable the Council will endeavour to resolve drainage problems reported as soon as practicable in order to avoid inconvenience to road users and local residents.
  6. Landowners are normally responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of existing ditches on private land, even if they drain to adjacent land or there is a proportion of highway surface water involved. Landowners are responsible for carrying out regular inspections and cleansing works to prevent major problems developing, including ensuring that ditch depths are maintained and that headwalls, grilles and catch pits are cleaned and maintained in good condition.
  7. Where landowners fail to maintain drains (ditch, gutter, watercourse, soak-away, culvert, tunnel and pipe ditches etc.) that they are responsible for and which subsequently causes water to discharge or flood onto the adjoining highway, the Council has specific powers under Section 100 of the Highways Act 1980 to serve notice on the landowner to correct such an occurrence or for the Council to take action to prevent such occurrence in the ways set out below and to recover costs of doing so:

- Constructing or laying in the highway or land adjoining or lying near to the highway, such drains as they consider necessary.

- Erecting barriers in the highway or in land adjoining or lying near to the highway, to divert surface water into or through any existing drain.

- Scouring, cleansing and keep open all drains situated in the highway or land adjoining or lying near to the highway.

  1. If the Council exercise powers under Section 100 of the Highways Act 1980 to prevent such a discharge or flood on the highway it may result in the Council being liable to compensate the owner or occupier of any land which suffers damage.
  2. Each specific occurrence of surface water drainage or flooding impacting the adopted highway will need to be investigated by the Council and where necessary legal advice sought before any decision is made on the most appropriate action to address localised discharge or flooding of water onto the adopted highway. More significantly, flooding as defined by the Council's Local Flood Risk Management Strategy may also trigger a more formal investigation as part of the Council's requirement as Lead Local Flood Authority to investigate and report significant flooding incidents under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.
  3. It is also the case that landowners under common law have a responsibility to pass on flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others. Furthermore, there is no common law duty requiring landowners to improve a watercourse or for landowners to introduce ditches within perimeters of land adjoining the adopted highway. The re-introducing of ditches will require detailed consideration of specific local circumstances and appropriate legal advice to be obtained before such matters can be determined.
  4. Altered patterns of land use, building development and new roads all combine to change patterns of drainage established over the years and any adverse effects to surface water runoff as a consequence of such actions will need specific investigation.
  5. The Council encourages all surface water drainage problems affecting the adopted highway to be reported for detailed investigation prior to any specific action being taken.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The Council's revenue budget for 2018/19 for the maintenance, repair and minor improvement works to the highway surface water drainage assets, including ditching, gully emptying and emergency call outs is circa £560k.
  2. The maintenance and management of the Council's highway surface water drainage assets is undertaken by existing staff resources within the Council's Neighbourhood Services and Transport Department.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. Climate change will potentially exacerbate the risk, intensity and frequency of surface water flooding on the Council's local highway network in the future.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Council has a duty to maintain the Highway pursuant to the Highways Act (1980).
  2. The Council has responsibilities to lead on ordinary watercourse consenting and enforcement in accordance with Land Drainage Act 1991.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no crime and disorder implications in respect of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. There are no direct equal opportunity implications as a consequence of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. A well maintained highway contributes to corporate Well-being Outcome 4: An Active and Healthy Vale and Objective 7 to Encouraging and promoting active and healthy lifestyles.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. As this is a Vale wide matter, no consultation has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Environment and Regeneration.

Background Papers


Contact Officer

Mike Clogg - Operational Manager Engineering

Officers Consulted

Committee Reports - Legal

Environment and Housing - Accountant

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing