SRA End of Year Report 2015-16: Step change in encouraging and enforcing riparian work
Background: The Environment Agency has the power to police and enforce riparian ownership responsibilities on main rivers. Within Internal Drainage Board (IDB) areas, the IDBs have this power on ordinary watercourses. Outside of IDB areas, on ordinary watercourses, this power sits with Local Flood Authorities. All of these powers are permissive powers: relevant authorities and agencies are entitled to use their discretion. Flood Risk Management Authorities all seek to encourage riparian owners to understand and carry out their responsibilities. Enforcement action is taken if need be in Somerset, but it can be costly and time-consuming, and it is better initially to seek to get work done by habitual consent.
Problem: In the wake of the floods of 2013-14, it was widely felt in Somerset that problems were exacerbated because too few riparian owners knew and carried out their responsibilities, particularly for maintenance. There was therefore a need to be more pro-active.
Not yet achieved: A Community Engagement and Enforcement Officer is not yet in post, but recruitment is underway. To ensure the necessary geographical coverage, the postholder will be shared between the Internal Drainage Boards and Somerset County Council. He or she will seek to work pro-actively with communities and landowners in flood risk areas to highlight the responsibilities of riparian owners and the important role that maintenance plays in managing flood risk. This work will be backed up with the threat and use of enforcement where negotiation fails and the risk of flooding necessitates action. The county council and the IDBs are also exploring ways this work could be integrated with other community resilience activities.