Flood and sea defences: designated assets on your land

What happens if a structure or feature on your land is designated as a flood or coastal erosion defence asset.

Applies to England and Wales

If you have a structure or feature on your land that helps manage the risk of flooding or coastal erosion, it can be designated as a flood risk management asset.

Assets can be any natural or man-made structure or feature, such as walls, buildings, earth embankments, shingle banks, or raised areas of land.

Your structure or feature can be designated by the risk management authorities:

What designation means

You can continue to use and maintain the structure or feature after it’s been designated. However, you usually must get consent from the responsible authority if you want to alter, remove or replace it.

The designated structure or feature will be registered as a ‘local land charge’. This means that the designation is attached to the land and is legally binding on successive owners or occupiers.

How assets are designated

You’ll be sent a ‘provisional designation notice’ by the authority that wants to designate the potential asset.

The notice will:

  • identify the structure or feature to be designated
  • ask you to confirm you’re the owner or that you maintain it
  • tell you which authority intends to designate it
  • explain the reasons for the designation including why the potential asset affects flood or coastal erosion risk
  • explain the legal process and implications
  • tell you how to raise any queries or concerns you may have

You’ll have at least 28 days to raise any concerns or questions. These will be considered before a final decision is made.

You should not alter, remove or replace the proposed asset during the notice period without consent from the authority.

You’ll be sent a confirmation notice if the decision is made to designate the structure. The authority that designates the asset then becomes known as the responsible authority.

You can appeal a decision to designate a structure or feature.

Alter, remove or replace a designated asset

You may need consent from the responsible authority if you want to alter, remove or replace a designated asset.

There are no set rules for what you can and can’t do without consent. You’ll usually only need it if what you want to do will affect flood or coastal erosion risk. For example, routine maintenance on a wall doesn’t usually need consent, but raising or lowering its height probably will. Sometimes a designation notice is issued with a general consent included, to permit you to do certain things.

Check with the responsible authority if you’re not sure if you need consent.

How to apply

Apply to the Environment Agency for consent if they’re the responsible authority.

If you’re not sure who the responsible authority is contact your local council.

You should get a response within 2 months of sending your request. Contact the responsible authority if you don’t get a response in this time.

You can appeal to the tribunal if you:

  • are refused consent
  • don’t want to abide by the conditions imposed on the consent
  • don’t agree with an enforcement notice

You may face legal action if you alter, remove or replace a designated asset without consent.

You’ll be sent an enforcement notice asking you to reinstate the asset. You can be prosecuted and fined if you don’t comply with the enforcement notice.

The authority can also carry out emergency works and recover the costs from you.

Request that a designation is cancelled

Contact the responsible authority if you want to have a designation cancelled. You should get a response within 2 months. Contact them again if you don’t.

You can appeal if the authority refuses to cancel.

If the responsible authority cancels a designation

The responsible authority is only likely to cancel a designation if the designation is no longer necessary or appropriate, eg when a wall has been replaced by an alternative purpose-built flood or coastal erosion defence.

How to appeal

You may be able to appeal to the General Regulatory Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal (Environment) against a decision made by a designating authority.

If you’re the owner of a designated structure or feature you can appeal if you:

  • disagree with a decision to designate your structure or feature
  • are refused consent, eg to alter, remove or replace it
  • don’t agree with a decision in connection with a consent application, eg conditions imposed on it
  • don’t agree with an enforcement notice
  • have applied to have the designation cancelled and been refused

If you’re not the owner, you can only appeal if you carried out work that resulted in an enforcement notice.

Send your appeal to the tribunal so it’s received within 28 days of the formal notice being sent by the authority. A late application will only be accepted if you have a good reason for the delay.

The designation will remain in place until the tribunal makes its decision. If you’re appealing an enforcement notice, you don’t have to abide by it until the tribunal makes its decision.

If you don’t get a response from the responsible authority

Contact the designating authority if they have not responded to your objection within 2 months. If they tell you they’ve rejected your objection you can appeal to the tribunal.

You can’t appeal to the tribunal if the authority just hasn’t given you a decision yet - eg due to an administrative error. You’ll need to raise a complaint with the authority instead.

You must appeal to the tribunal within 28 days of the end of the 2 month period.

Alternatives to a tribunal

You may be able to avoid going to a tribunal. Check with the authority to see if they have any form of alternative dispute resolution.

The 28 day deadline to appeal will still apply so you may want to send your notice of appeal to the tribunal first.

Contact the Environment Agency

General enquiries

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
S60 1BY


Telephone 03708 506 506

Telephone from outside the UK (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm GMT) +44 (0) 114 282 5312

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

The impact of COVID-19 means you may experience some delays in responses.

Published 14 May 2015