Ditches

Ditches or watercourses are the responsibility of landowners (often called riparian owners). The owner of the ditch has a responsibility to maintain the ditch, and ensure that water can flow unobstructed.

Roadside ditches normally belong to the adjoining landowner and not the highway authority, except where land has been acquired for new road building.

Adjacent owners should not carry out any other work on the ditch, which would interfere with its proper operation, or restrict road surface water draining into it.

Frequently asked questions

As I have never seen water in the ditch, how important is it?

Even if the ditch doesn't appear to be wet, do not assume it is obsolete. The ditch may play a vital part in clearing excess water from the highway or neighbouring land runoff, especially in times of localised flooding. Your responsibility to ensure that the ditch is kept clear still applies (known as riparian responsibility).

Can I pipe my ditch?

No, not without permission.
Permission to pipe any ditch or watercourse will require written permission from the Surrey County Council. Failure to do so may result in enforcement action upon the landowner to remove any unauthorised work done. If the pipework is not removed there may be further enforcement action, by the appropriate Land Drainage Authority, who will remove the pipework and seek to recover all costs from the landowner.

The ditches along the side of my road have not been cleared and are causing drainage problems in the area, what can I do?

It is often the adjacent landowner's responsibility to clear roadside ditches, not the Highway Authority. Surrey County Council Highways or Surrey Heath Borough Council may be able to assist with information to establish ownership. If the ditches are owned or co-owned by the properties in your road then contact your neighbours to organise a neighbourhood working party or agree between you to pay a contractor. Please ensure that you are able to work safely if you are working close to the highway.

All the ditches need work, how do I know the size or depth my ditch should be?

Any maintenance is better than no maintenance and leaving it will only increase the risk of blockages and further flooding problems. As a guide it is best to look at neighbouring ditches to ascertain an approximate depth and shape however, a quick scrape through the ditch to remove any loose debris and vegetation will significantly reduce the risk of flooding or drainage problems and possible enforcement action.
For more information, contact Surrey County Council contact.centre@surreycc.gov.uk Tel: 03456 009009.

If someone is dumping rubbish in the ditch, what should I do?

A ditch is for drainage, not for autumn leaves or dumping waste. Dumping of any rubbish or waste in a ditch is classed as fly-tipping which is a criminal offence.