Flooding: frequently asked questions

Q1: Who is responsible for the ditch at the bottom of my garden?
Q2: What if the ditch is between my property and a public area, eg a park?
Q3: If I have riparian ownership of the ditch at the bottom of my garden, am I allowed to extend my property and build on it?
Q4: If someone is dumping rubbish in the ditch, what should I do?
Q5: How important is the ditch - I've never seen water in it?
Q6: What should I do if the road outside my house floods?
Q7: How can I find out if I am in a flood area?
Q8: How can I check if there is a flood alert?
Q9: Who should I contact if there is a flood?
Q10: If a flood does arise, how can the Council help?
Q11: What does 1 in 100 and 1 in 20 mean?
Q12: What can I do to protect my property during flooding?
Q13: Contents/building insurance
Q14: How do I minimise health risks following a flood?
Q15: Why does the local authority allow development on flood plain areas?


Q1: Who is responsible for the ditch at the bottom of my garden?

If a ditch borders your property in any way, then you are responsible for maintaining it. If you have a fence between your garden and the ditch, the ditch is still your responsibility. The responsibility lies 50:50 between you and the landowner on the other side of the ditch.

Q2: What if the ditch is between my property and a public area, eg a park?

If a ditch borders your property in any way, then you have riparian ownership of the half that borders your property. If the land on the other side of the ditch is Council-owned, then you share the responsibility 50:50 with the Council. This ownership split applies even if there is a fence between your property and the ditch and it appears as though the ditch is within the park boundaries.

Q3: If I have riparian ownership of the ditch at the bottom of my garden, am I allowed to extend my property and build on it?

If you wish to extend your property over the ditch, you must first obtain permission from the Environment Agency. If you build on the ditch without permission, you may be interfering with the natural flow of the watercourse. The Agency has the right to enforce the removal of any obstruction to flow.

Q4: If someone is dumping rubbish in the ditch, what should I do?

Contact the Environment Agency on 03708 506 506 for guidance.

Q5: How important is the ditch - I've never seen water in it?

Even if the ditch no longer appears to by dry, the responsibility is to ensure it is kept clear of debris and other obstructions still apply. The ditch may have a vital role especially in times of localised flooding.

Q6: What should I do if the road outside my house floods?

If the road has flooded due to a burst water pipe or blocked drain, contact Thames Water's Leakline on 0800 714 614. More information can be found on the Thames Water website.

If the road has flooded as a result of an overflow from the watercourse, contact the Environment Agency on the emergency Floodline 0345 988 1188.  Start taking measures to vacate your property, in the event of rising water levels.

Q7: How can I find out if I am in a flood area?

Go to the Environment Agency's website which displays a map of flood risk areas.

Q8: How can I check if there is a flood alert?

The Environment Agency's website contains the latest flood alert status. You can register to receive alerts by telephone or fax, by telephoning 0345 988 1188.

Q9: Who should I contact if there is a flood?

Your first point of call should be the Environment Agency, who have an emergency Floodline 0345 988 1188.

Q10: If a flood does arise, how can the Council help?

The Environment Agency incident hotline is 03702 422 549. In an emergency, Spelthorne Council will help Surrey County Council with the evacuation of property-owners.

Q11: What does 1 in 100 and 1 in 20 mean?

This refers to the frequency or likelihood of flooding. To find out more access the Environment Agency's webpage "Your Questions Answered".

Q12: What can I do to protect my property during flooding?

If possible, move property contents and vehicles to higher ground above flood level. Sandbags have minimal protection value, but can be provided by the Council at the property-owners' request. The Environment Agency website has a useful list of action points.

Q13: Contents/building insurance

Your insurance company should be able to provide information regarding your specific insurance details. The Environment Agency has liaised with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to provide further details on how flooding will affect your insurance. They have produced a factsheet of frequently asked questions and answers (Flood risk and insurance information sheet - your questions answered). You can also view further information at the ABI website. Your solicitor will be able to advise of the legal requirements of selling your home.

Q14: How do I minimise health risks following a flood?

Please take a look at our Environmental Health advice.

Q15: Why does the local authority allow development on flood plain areas?

The local authority has an obligation to provide new housing year after year. Where alternatives are available, most local authorities try to avoid approving applications for new developments in known flooding areas.