Flooding advice

Flooding Advice

Over 5 million people in the UK are at risk of flooding and in Sefton approximately 63% of properties could be affected by flood events. Flooding can be caused by factors including, overflowing rivers or streams, coastal inundation, blocked drains, high groundwater or pumping station failures. However, extreme rainfall is becoming a bigger issue, and this can cause flooding almost anywhere. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risks and responsibilities as a homeowner or landlord, in order to protect yourself and your property from flooding.

As a homeowner or landlord, you have a personal responsibility to protect your property in the event of a flood. Sefton Council does not have a legal obligation to protect private property from flooding and this includes the supply of sandbags/floodsacs. We recommend homeowners and landlords undertake measures to protect their own properties from flooding through resistance and resilience measures, as well as having their own supply of sandbags.

Knowing what you should do in the event of flooding is important – the links below provide information on flood risk management in the Borough. The North West Flood Hub website provides an excellent range of flood related guidance and information to help understand, prepare and respond to flood events.

There are a number of risk management authorities managing different types of flooding. Therefore, it is important to report the right type of flooding to the correct risk management authority for the issue to be resolved effectively. The North West Flood Hub website and the Environment Agency main river map can help you to distinguish between the different types of flooding, who is responsible and the location of main river channels.

Sefton Council Investigates:

  • Groundwater flooding – heavy rain causes the groundwater table to rise to the surface.
  • Surface water flooding - heavy rain causes drains to become overwhelmed and water to flow over the surface that threatens properties.
  • Flooding from ordinary watercourses – streams or drainage ditches flood when they are unable to contain the larger volumes of water created from heavy rainfall. Flooding can also occur when main rivers are unable to discharge water effectively causing water to backflow up the system.

We want to hear about flooding from the three sources above. We are currently in the process of generating an online form to report groundwater, surface water and ordinary watercourse flooding. In the meantime, please email us at flooding@sefton.gov.uk and include the flood location, any photos and your contact details.

Other Risk Management Authorities Investigate:

  • Sewer Flooding – Sewage escapes from a drain, manhole or by backing up toilets, sinks or baths. There are several potential causes such as blocked pipes or too much water entering the sewers. Sewer flooding needs to be reported to your water company: United Utilities (North West) – 0345 672 3723. More information is provided on the UU website.
  • Highway Flooding - Large puddles are normal after heavy rainfall but puddles stretching across streets, pavements and roads that do not drain after 24 hours may be caused by blocked gullies or the carrier pipe that road gully is connected to. These flooding issues are handled by Sefton’s Highway Department. To report an urgent issue (i.e. properties under threat) call 0345 140 0845 during office hours or 0151 922 6107 after hours. For non-urgent issues please use Highway’s online form.
  • Main River Flooding – Flooding occurs when rivers do not have the capacity to carry away floodwaters sometimes causing adjacent low-lying properties to flood. Fast-flowing floodwaters, such as these can be a risk to people and properties and should be reported to the Environment Agency Incident Hotline – 0800 80 70 60.
  • Coastal Flooding – A combination of high tides and low-pressure storm systems cause an increase in tidal water levels which can overwhelm sea defences. These events can cause flooding to properties at the coast but also properties in tidal river basins as floodwater is forced up the tidal reaches. These flooding events should be reported to the Environment Agency Incident Hotline - 0800 80 70 60.

At Sefton Council we are working hard to reduce flood risk across the borough, but as an individual you have a responsibility to be aware of the level of risk to your home and to prepare accordingly. Being prepared involves planning for before, during and after a flood and there are simple actions that can be taken to ensure your safety. The North West Flood Hub website is an excellent resource to help you to understand and prepare for flood events.


Individuals have a personal responsibility to plan and protect themselves and their property from flood events. You can buy sandbags from most builders' merchants and DIY stores. Plastic or polypropylene are best because they last longer. There are also several modern types of sandbag on the market which use an absorbent polymer instead of sand which are light and easy to position due to their small size. Another means of protection is by fastening plastic sheets to the outside of any external doors and keeping them closed.

If you have suffered flooding on a previous occasion, we would recommend that you keep your own stock of sandbags or have permanent flood protection installed. Please note, Sefton Council does not collect sandbags after a flood event, you are responsible for their safe disposal.

Legislative framework defines the roles and responsibilities placed on flood risk management authorities. Following extensive flooding in 2007, flood risk legislation was overhauled, and greater responsibility was placed on local authorities to effectively manage surface water flood risk. The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 defined the new roles and responsibilities for local authorities and classified them as Lead Local Flood Authorities. Relevant government legislation:

Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, Sefton Council was made a Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA). As such, we oversee flood risk from surface water, groundwater or ordinary watercourse sources.

As an LLFA, Sefton Council is required to:

  • Investigate and publish reports on significant flooding in Sefton. See Flood Investigation Policy.
  • Maintain a register of assets that have a significant effect on flooding in Sefton and who is responsible for them.
  • Prepare and maintain a Local Flood Risk Management Strategy for Sefton with organisations such as the Environment Agency and other local risk management authorities. The strategy aims to manage surface runoff, groundwater and ordinary watercourses. You can now access the Local Flood Risk Management Strategy (2022-2030), access the accompanying Business Plan or download an Easy Read version of the documents
  • Co-operate with other Risk Management Authorities and work closely to ensure local and national plans are linked.
  • Regulate ordinary watercourses through issuing consents and enforcement powers to ensure riparian owners are undertaking their duties.
  • Undertake the role of a statutory consultee to Sefton planning authorities by providing technical advice on surface water drainage.
  • Have a role in emergency planning.

As a LLFA, Sefton Council works closely with the following organisations:

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency (EA) is an executive, non-departmental public body which is responsible for managing flood risk from main rivers. The EA has the power to undertake work on main rivers to prevent or fix a flooding issue but may choose to charge this cost to the Riparian Owner (see below). The EA also has a responsibility to produce flood risk maps and issue flood warnings to the public.

United Utilities

United Utilities (UU) is responsible for managing flooding from sewers and water mains across Sefton. UU must ensure their assets and systems are resilient to flood and coastal risks and work with developers and landowners to reduce the input of rainfall into sewers through sustainable drainage systems (SuDS). Sefton Council works with UU to resolve flooding related to foul and surface water sewer interaction.

Riparian Owners 

Riparian owners are responsible for maintaining the free flow of a watercourse (piped or open) running through or adjacent to their land.

Riparian owners can face legal action if the lack of maintenance of their watercourse causes flooding. Land ownership is sometimes unknown, disputed or difficult to work out. To find out who owns certain parcels of land (and therefore whether they have a riparian responsibility), title registers and title plans can be obtained from the Land Registry online services. Often developers will leave a strip of land (this can be several metres wide) behind a property to allow for watercourse maintenance, but the land is normally registered to the adjacent property and as such they are still the riparian owner.

More information on the responsibilities of riparian ownership can be found in the dedicated leaflet on the Government’s ‘Owning a Watercourse’ webpage.

Canal and Rivers Trust

Operate and manage the canal network in England and Wales. They perform inspections and maintenance of canals, bridges, towpaths etc., and monitor water levels. They will respond to flooding from canal breaches.

Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and the Land drainage Act 1991, prior consent from the Local Authority is required in order to undertake work that is likely to affect the flow of water in an ordinary watercourse. Land Drainage Consent is required to ensure that any work undertaken in or near a watercourse does not have a negative effect on nearby properties or the environment. For works relating to or affecting main rivers you must consult the Environment Agency.

Not all work requires Land Drainage Consent. However, consent is required for both permanent or temporary work that will impact the flow or storage of water such as the alteration or installation of a culvert.

It is important to note that consent cannot be given retrospectively and that being granted planning permission or other consents does not mean you do not require Land Drainage Consent. Any work undertaken without Land Drainage Consent may result in civil action being taken.

More details on Land Drainage Consent can be found in the Land Drainage Consent application form. If you have any further questions about Land Drainage Consent, please email flooding@sefton.gov.uk

If you are a developer wanting information on planning guidance relating to flood risk and sustainable drainage please see Adopted Supplementary Planning Documents/Guidance (sefton.gov.uk) and also be aware of the Councils policy on culverting and diverting of a watercourses:

March 2021 Flood Risk Joint Statement of Intent

Sefton Council, the Environment Agency and United Utilities have signed a joint statement of intent to reassure Maghull communities that they are continuing to work together to explore solutions to reduce the risk of flooding.

The statement strengthens the collaborative approach already undertaken to manage and reduce flood risk, further prompted by weather events in January 2021. A major incident was declared due to significant rainfall brought by Storm Christoph on Wednesday 20th January 2021 which also saw the Environment Agency issue two Severe Flood Warnings in Maghull, covering 439 properties within the flood warning area.

The predicted flooding did not happen as expected but the incident highlighted the need for all three organisations to come together to find deliverable improvements that make a significant difference for the community.

All three organisations have sought to manage the risks through a range of means to date including routine maintenance, capital investments, improvements to warning and informing residents as well as planning control. Alongside the statement of intent, a new flood risk working group will also be established with representation from all three agencies.

Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council is designated as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for Sefton. The Council has a duty, where it deems necessary, to record and report flood incidents within its administrative area under Section 19 of the FWMA. The council has exercised its duty in relation to flooding after a number of flooding incidents – these reports are provided below:

Last Updated on Thursday, June 16, 2022

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