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Flood Risk Management Responsibilities

Cornwall Council and its partner organisations:

  • Environment Agency
  • South West Water
  • Emergency Services

have duties for managing flood risks.

Cornwall Council is the Local Flood Authority for Cornwall as designated by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. This gives Cornwall Council new responsibilities for flood risk management. Cornwall Council are expected to work with other risk management authorities.

Responsibilities for managing flooding

The table below details the organisation responsible for different types of flooding.

Risk management authority Type of flooding
Cornwall Council (LLFA)
  • Ordinary watercourses
  • Surface water
  • Groundwater
Environment Agency
  • Main rivers
  • The sea
  • Reservoirs
South West Water
  • Public sewers
The Highways Agency
  • A30 and A38 trunk roads
  • Watercourses on, or adjacent, to private land


Cornwall Council

Cornwall Council as the Lead Local Flood Authority

Oversees the flood risk from ordinary watercourses, groundwater and surface water runoff. It also has the power to:

  • Investigate and record details of significant flood events within Cornwall
  • Maintain an asset register of structures or features with significant Flood Risk Management functions
  • Evaluate, approve and adopt certain new sustainable drainage systems in Cornwall
  • Undertake works to manage flood risk from surface runoff and groundwater
  • Choose structures and features that affect flooding or coastal erosion to safeguard assets. (Designation Powers)
  • Consent works on Ordinary Watercourses. This has been taken over from the Environment Agency. For more information please see our page on consenting for works and how to apply.
  • Develop, maintain, apply and monitor a Flood Risk Management local strategy in Cornwall.  For further information please see Cornwall Local Flood Risk Management Strategy

Cornwall Council as Land Drainage Authority 

Has powers to implement and maintain ordinary watercourse flood defences. Under the Land Drainage Act (1991) it maintains flows, removes obstructions and any unauthorised structures on ordinary watercourses

Cornwall Council as Planning Authority

Is responsible for development plans and making decisions based on planning policy.

Cornwall Council as Highway Authority

Is responsible for surface water on the highway. It maintains gullies and culverts to ensure effective highway drainage.

Cornwall Council as an Emergency Management Authority

Under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) must coordinate the Council’s activities both during and after an event, such as a major flood. This includes engaging with communities and helping them through the recovery phase. 

Cornwall Council as the Coast Protection Authority

Manages coastal erosion with the Environment Agency taking a strategic overview role.

The Environment Agency

Manages the risk from the sea, main rivers and reservoirs. It is a key local partner for Cornwall Council by managing risks from combined sources and during a large flood incident. It provides a flood warning service for areas in England and Wales that are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea. It sets high level and long term strategies and produces its own Flood Risk Management Plans.

South West Water

The water and sewerage company in Cornwall, supplying clean drinking water. It removes and processes waste water and owns and maintains the public sewerage system. It is responsible for managing flooding from these sewers.

South West Water, governed by the Water Industry Act (1991), is the sewerage undertaker. It provides, improves and extends public sewers and ensures the area continues to be drained.

Highways England

Manages, maintains and improves motorways and trunk roads. It ensures that the drainage of the highways is suitable to avoid flooding across England. In Cornwall the Highways Agency has responsibility for the A30 and A38 trunk roads.

Land/Property Owners

Landowners with a watercourse in or next to their land are responsible for:

  • Letting water flow through their land without obstruction, pollution or diversion. 
  • Accepting flood flows through their land even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream.
  • Keeping the banks clear and ensuring the watercourse is free from obstruction. This decreases the flood risk either on their land or downstream if washed away.
  • Maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse.
  • Maintaining trees and shrubs growing on the banks.
  • Clearing litter or debris from the channel and banks even if it did not come from their land.
  • Keeping structures i.e. culverts, trash screens, weirs and mill gates clear of debris.

For further information download Environment Agency's "Living on the Edge"

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