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Dykes and drainage

Dykes, drains and ditches are all terms that refer to artificial or minor watercourses. In the South Holland district, the majority of these were artificially created for land reclamation purposes a long time ago.

If there is a dyke near your property, there are numerous possibilities as to the ownership of a specific dyke. Dykes are not generally conveyed in house deeds, so it may be a surprise to find that you may in fact be partly responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of this watercourse. There are four ways that dyke ownership may go:

  • the dyke may belong to the local internal drainage board. If the dyke is relatively large and is well kept, this may well be the case; however, if you are unsure, consult them.
  • the dyke may belong to your neighbour, ask them to check their deeds.
  • the dyke may belong to you, check your deeds.

If none of the above three statements are applicable, the dyke may be the joint responsibility between yourself and your neighbour. If the dyke has not been identified as belonging to any party, but is on your boundary, the common law approach is a riparian ownership.

Riparian means 'of or on riverbank'. In reference to ownership issues, any property boundary, which ends at a dyke and the ownership of the watercourse is undefined. Then the land owner either side will be deemed as a joint or riparian owner. Even if you have a boundary fence or hedge between you and the dyke, you will be seen as having a joint responsibility under common law.

Apply to fill a dyke

You must not go ahead and fill a dyke. This is not only an issue which may cause severe drainage problems, even flooding; but is illegal under both the Public Health Act 1936 and the Land Drainage Act 1991. If you wish to fill a dyke, you must first contact us and the relevant authorities as detailed in the  dyke filling guidance (Word doc) [578KB] (opens new window) .

After speaking with us and other relevant authorities and you still want to proceed with an application to fill a dyke, please complete the  application form to culvert or cover any stream or watercourse (PDF) [257KB] (opens new window)  and return it to

You will need to complete the above application to culvert for any intended alteration to watercourse that may affect the flow of a dyke, such as creating an access to the road. This is required under the Public Health Act 1936.