Latest on Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage

Blackbrook watercourse in Burscough_22899

After the River Authorities and Land Drainage bill received its first reading in March 2018 and its Second Reading in Parliament on 8th February 2019, on the 18th March 2019 it had its third reading, the first in the House of Lords.

David Warburton MP (Somerton and Frome) announced the River Authorities and Land Drainage bill in parliament back in March last year. This private members’ bill looks to:

  • Provide a power to enable ‘Rivers Authorities’ (e.g. the Somerset Rivers Authority) to be established and to become a statutory precepting body.
  • Update the Land Drainage Act 1991 to enable new Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) to form and for pre-existing IDBs to extend their boundary.

Creation of Rivers Authorities

The private members bill would provide a power to create a ‘Rivers Authority’. The Secretary of State would also be given powers to determine the membership, function and funding of the Rivers Authority. It is not expected that a large number of Rivers Authorities would be created, but this could be used to create the Somerset Rivers Authority.

The NFU is in support of the creation of Rivers Authorities where there is local support for their establishment. They provide a way to create additional funding targeted for essential flood risk management works.

Revisions to the Land Drainage Act 1991

Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) are small public authorities who can raise funding specifically for flood risk management and land drainage works. Many NFU members are calling for pre-existing IDBs to be able to extend their boundaries (primarily in low-lying Eastern parts of the country), and in some catchments in the North West there is strong local support for the creation of new IDBs.

The bill would look to address the current bottleneck where land valuation data from the 1990s is required to create new IDBs or expand pre-existing IDBs. In a lot of circumstances this data has not been retained from this era. The private members bill will provide the power to use modern day data to value land.

The NFU is very supportive of this proposed change and has been working closely with Defra and other partners locally and nationally to raise awareness of the importance of getting this change in legislation.

The bill successfully passed its Second Reading in Parliament on 8th February 2019. The Second Reading was the first opportunity for the Bill to be debated in the House of Commons and the overall principles of the Bill, outlined above, were considered. The NFU has played an integral part in raising awareness of the Bill in order to improve the likelihood of its success. The NFU also provided comprehensive information as to how this Bill will help members.


The minister confirmed that "following Royal Assent to the Bill, the Government will take the necessary steps to develop and publish its national framework for rivers authorities and will engage with interested parties in doing so."

A Public Bill Committee has been set up by the House of Commons to examine the details of a particular Bill.

The NFU are scrutinising the Bill and will continue to work with the members of the committee by providing evidence.

We will keep you up-to-date with any future progress.

If you have any questions regarding this announcement, speak to CallFirst (0370 845 8458) or Mhari Barnes: TWhhcmkuQmFybmVzQG5mdS5vcmcudWs=

Last edited on: 22:03:2019

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