Environmental management – guidance

Riverside ownership: rights and responsibilities

The guide 'Living on the edge' explains your rights and responsibilities of riverside ownership.



If you own land or property next to a river, stream or ditch you are a ‘riparian landowner’ and this guide is for you.

This guide explains:

  • your rights and responsibilities as a riparian landowner
  • the roles of your risk management authority and other organisations you may need to work with
  • who is responsible for flood risk management and flood defences, and what that means in practice
  • how you can work with your risk management authority and other organisations to protect and improve the natural environment of rivers and streams

Changes to the law from 6 April 2016

On 6 April 2016, there were some changes to the law that affect this guide.

This guide says you need a flood defence consent from the Environment Agency in some circumstances. Instead, you need an environmental permit from the Environment Agency for work on or near a main river or sea defence.

Consents issued by local councils (unitary or county council where they act as a lead local flood authority) and internal drainage boards for work to ordinary watercourses remain unchanged.

For any other questions about this publication, please email enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.