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Who is responsible for blocked road drains?

If you encounter a blocked drain outside your domestic or business property, you might understandably be anxious to get it unblocked – but it may also be less than clear to you who has responsibility for dealing with it.

There is a perception among many that any drain within the boundary of a given property is always the responsibility of the owner of that property, and that they would therefore need to be the ones reaching out to drainage engineers like our own here at First Call Drainage UK.

Alongside this, it has long been widely understood that lateral drains and sewers tend to be the responsibility of sewerage companies. Indeed, Citizens Advice says exactly this, while also warning that although most sewers these days are publicly owned, some private or unadopted sewers still exist.

So, establishing responsibility for a given blocked drain isn’t always as straightforward a process as one might expect. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what you need to do to determine who needs to deal with that blocked road drain you might have spotted.

Drains vs lateral drains vs sewers

It is important, of course, not to get drains and sewers confused when you are figuring out who is responsible for what.

Basically, a drain is a pipe with the purpose of draining water and waste from a building, while a sewer collects that water and waste from the drains of multiple buildings. Meanwhile, a lateral drain is the thing between the two; a length of pipe that carries wastewater away from a property, and towards a sewer.

So, who is responsible for that blocked drain on the road?

You might imagine that the Highways Agency would have something to do with drains on UK roads, given that it is – after all – the entity responsible for operating, maintaining and improving motorways and major A roads in the UK.

And sure enough, according to Ofwat, it is indeed the Highways Agency that is responsible for maintaining some highway drains in England. Note, however, that despite still being widely known as the Highways Agency, this government-owned company has undergone a few name changes since its establishment in 1994 – to Highways England in 2015, and then to National Highways in 2021.

And as the company has pointed out in the past, it is not responsible for all the UK’s roads – with local roads, for instance, being managed by the relevant local authority.

Ofwat agrees that local authorities are responsible for maintaining some highway drains. But as its handy guide to responsibility for pipes and sewers sets out, when it comes to public sewers – which are usually in roads or in public open spaces – it is the responsibility of sewerage companies to manage these.

Overall, responsibility for sewers and drains across the country is spread between property owners, water and sewage firms, local authorities, and National Highways. So, if you are unsure about the situation with a given drain that you find blocked on a road near you, it is worth contacting one of these entities to clarify the situation.

Remember that when it comes to blocked drains in Essex and Kent, our drainage experts at First Call Drainage UK always know exactly what to do! Simply contact us today for more information and advice about how we can efficiently tackle a drainage issue on your own property.

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