Land drainage byelaws

We, Woking Borough Council, have been granted authority to operate land drainage byelaws by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The byelaws outline what landowners must do when undertaking works on or near to an ordinary watercourse. The byelaws support the existing requirements under the Land Drainage Act 1991 and should be considered by anyone planning works or developments within close proximity to an ordinary watercourse.

The main requirements of the byelaws are:

  • To ensure there is a minimum boundary width of nine metres on each side of the ordinary watercourse which remain undeveloped and maintained.
  • Consent for works, which are within the nine metre boundary (including under and over the watercourse), is required for both permanent and temporary works.
  • The proposed works must not directly or indirectly increase the flow or volume of water to an ordinary watercourse.


To conduct works which comply with the land drainage byelaws, consent must be issued by us, Woking Borough Council.

The application fee for consent, under the land drainage byelaws, is £50 per structure.

Please note separate consents are required for each structure or part of the works which affect the channel or watercourse.

All applications should provide a detailed overview of the proposed works to comply with the land drainage byelaws. Consent will be refused if it is deemed that the proposed works could cause an increased flood risk, or there is an unacceptable risk to the natural environment and conservation.

Enforcement action will be taken if you do not seek consent for the works, consent is not given or we deem the works to sub standard. No works should begin until consent has been granted and any associated conditions have been discharged.

Apply to undertake works on or near an ordinary watercourse

Additional consent to check

Any works that affect the flow of an ordinary watercourse may also need consent from Surrey County Council.

What happens next?

Once an application from has been submitted, it will be sent to our drainage and flood risk team.

Our team will issue a response to your application within two months of the application being validated.

Planning applications

Planning applications will be refused if the proposed plans oppose the land drainage byelaws.

Contact us

For more information or advice, contact our drainage and flood management team.


More information

Land drainage byelaws

Land drainage byelaws guidance notes

DEFRA approval certificate