What to do about… …land that floods:

shutterstock_220202137Five steps to control flooding.

Managing flooding can be a difficult balance for any landowner. You need to effectively protect your land but also have a responsibility to allow the free flow of any watercourse crossing or bounding it. At the same time you’re obliged to ensure you aren’t letting water or soil flow onto a highway (including footpaths and bridleways).

It’s no surprise that we’re going to recommend working with specialists in flood mitigation. It’s complex and if flooding is not properly managed, the risks to landowners are manifold…

  • Prosecution under the Highways Act 1980 for allowing a highway to flood
  • Court rulings and fines for claims for damages which can be brought by neighbours
  • Soil erosion that could reduce the agricultural effectiveness and value of your land
  • Damage to your property and assets
  • Causing emergency call-outs to rescue people and livestock
  • Creating opposition amongst the local community

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some really effective solutions that are simpler and cheaper to implement that you might think.

To find the most effective solution for your land, there are five steps to follow…

  1. Assess the root cause

The root cause of flooding isn’t always clear – there are a myriad of issues that can trigger flooding events.

It could be that changes in the upper catchment are diverting water onto your land, or you might have made changes yourself that have had unexpectedly worsened drainage and run-off. It could be that the existing catchment or waterway is no longer able to cope with our volatile weather patterns.

Before you design or implement any solution, it’s vital to understand exactly what’s causing the problem. It might not even be something you need to address but the responsibility of another landowner or authority.

An experienced hydrologist will be able to look at the often complex web of local issues and understand which are actually contributing to flooding.

  1. Understand the current and potential impact

The scale of any solution has to match the current and future impact of flooding. It’s worth understanding in detail if the flooding is likely to be isolated, ongoing or increasingly problematic. Steps to establish that are:

  • Review recent flooding and changes on your land
  • Identify hazards and assets within the pathway of potential flooding
  • Carry out detailed investigation, possibly including modeling to inform a thorough analysis of risks

This will establish a robust understanding of the level of physical and financial risk you face and provide a sound basis from which to move forward toward a solution that ultimately delivers cost benefit.

  1. Design a solution

Depending on the root cause and scale of your flooding problem, there’s a broad suite of flood mitigation solutions that might be appropriate, including (but not limited to):

  • Planting trees and areas of long grass in the upper catchment and planting between land and streams or rivers.
  • Careful placement of flood storage ponds
  • Implementing sustainable drainage solutions (SuDS)
  • Building water diversion channels
  • Flood protection structures

A skilled hydrologist, in conjunction with a landscape architect, will be able to design the most appropriate solution for your particular flood problem and tailor it to the specific needs of your site.

  1. Address any barriers

When proposing any design, it’s always worth looking to reduce the red-tape, often by working more closely with pre-existing natural processes. However, unless you’re well-versed in the planning and regulatory context, you’ll need to be sure there are no implications from:

  • Planning regulations
  • The Rights of Way Act 2000
  • The Highways Act 1980
  • Visual impact
  • Rights of the local community and neighbouring landowners

It can be a complex process but it’s important to do it properly. Thorough assessment by planning and landscape experts of the potential barriers to progressing land improvement options can save unforseen delays and budget extensions.

  1. Implement the solution

A well designed implementation and management plan, combined with the right contractor, can make the practical application and maintenance of your solution smooth and painless. The benefits you reap are greater when:

  • A solution is as straightforward as possible and effective more quickly
  • More complex solutions are carefully managed to ensure timescales and costs are controlled
  • You work with skilled contractors experienced in the field of flood control

Getting the solution right on paper isn’t enough. If you’re going to have an effective solution to any persistent flooding issue, you need to be sure it’s right on the ground as well.


Flooding is becoming increasingly challenging, frequent and intrusive. To effectively protect your land and assets, the best approach is structured and offers relief in the short and long term.

With careful analysis, modeling, design, planning and implementation, there will be a mitigation plan that fits your landscape, time constraints and budget.

At Johns Associates we always seek to unlock the maximum benefit of any scheme. Any flood risk improvement we propose will be designed to be able to cope not only with the weather of yesterday but also the climate of the future. Our experience will ensure that the solution responds to its context, be that a listed building, a protected habitat or relations with a neighbouring community. There is no need for this to result in increased cost for you, and in many cases we would expect to be able to obtain land management grant funding to support the project.

Johns Associates is an environmental consultancy experienced in the planning and practice of flood mitigation. We have specialist teams who collaborate to provide innovative, efficient solutions for flooding. Those teams include:

  • Hydrology and soils
  • Ecology
  • Landscape architecture
  • Planning
  • Contracting

We’d love to talk to you about how we can support you to develop and implement the best solution for your land and assets. Get in touch and we can set you on the right path.


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