Environmental permits for flood risk activities

Check if you need to apply for an environmental permit before starting work

You need a flood risk activity permit, previously called flood defence consent, if you want to do work:

  • on or near a main river
  • on or near a flood defence structure
  • on or near a sea defence
  • in a flood plain

Permission is also necessary to ensure the work will not interfere with our flood risk management assets or adversely affect the local environment, fisheries or wildlife.

You could be breaking the law if you start work without getting the permit you need.

Check if the activity is near a main river

You will need a permit to work on or near a main river. Use our map to see the location of main rivers in Wales.

Not near a main river

You do not need a flood risk permit to work on an ordinary watercourse – usually small rivers, streams and ditches. But you should contact your local authority responsible to apply for an ordinary watercourse consent.

If the work you're planning is in an Internal Drainage District (IDD) you will need to apply for a land drainage consent.

Contact us if you're not sure if the watercourse is a main river, ordinary watercourse, or part of an Internal Drainage District.

Activities that need a permit

You will need to apply for a flood risk activity permit before carrying out the following temporary or permanent work:

  • erecting any structure in, over or under a main river
  • carrying out of any work of alteration or repair on any structure in, over or under a main river if the work is likely to affect the flow of water in the main river or to impact on any drainage work
  • erecting or altering any structure designed to contain or divert the floodwaters of any part of a main river
  • any dredging, raising or taking of any sand, silt, ballast, clay, gravel or other materials from or off the bed or banks of a main river (or causing such materials to be dredged, raised or taken), including hydrodynamic dredging and desilting
  • any activity which is likely to divert the direction of the flow of water into or out of a main river or alter the level of water in a main river
  • any activity within 8 metres of a non-tidal main river, or within 8 metres of any flood defence structure or culvert on that river
  • any activity within 16 metres of a tidal main river, or within 16 metres of any flood defence structure or culvert on that river, which is likely to:
    • cause damage to or endanger the stability of the banks of that river or of any culvert
    • cause damage to any river control works
    • alter, reconstruct, discontinue or remove any river control works;
    • divert or obstruct flood waters or impact on the drainage of that river
    • interfere with Natural Resources Wales’ access to and along that river
  • any activity (other than an allowed activity (see below for definition)) on a flood plain that is:
    • more than 8 metres from a non-tidal main river or more than 16 metres from a tidal main river
    • more than 8 metres from any flood defence structure or culvert on a non-tidal main river
    • or more than 16 metres from any flood defence structure or culvert on a tidal main river, which is likely to divert or obstruct floodwaters, to damage any river control works or to impact on drainage
  • any activity within 16 metres of the base of a sea defence which is likely to:
    • endanger the stability of, cause damage to or reduce the effectiveness of that sea defence
    • interfere with Natural Resources Wales’ access to and along that sea defence
  • any activity within 8 metres of the base of a remote defence which is likely to:
    • endanger the stability of, cause damage to or reduce the effectiveness of that defence
    • interfere with Natural Resources Wales’ access to and along that defence
  • any quarrying or excavation within 16 metres of the base of a remote defence which is likely to cause damage to or endanger the stability of that defence
  • any quarrying or excavation within 16 metres of a main river or any flood defence structure or culvert on that river which is likely to cause damage to or endanger the stability of the banks of that river

Activities that do not need a permit

Exemptions

You do not need to apply for a permit if your activity meets the description and conditions of one of the exempt flood risk activities. But you will need to register your exemption before starting work.

It is free to register an exemption.

Exclusions

You do not need to get permission if you plan to carry out one of the excluded activities. But you must operate within the description and conditions of the exclusion.

Apply for a permit or register an exemption

There are 2 ways to get permission before you start work:

If you’re not sure if you need a permit contact us at enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Change, transfer or cancel a permit

Once you have a permit you can apply to change (vary), transfer or cancel (surrender) your permit.

Carrying out emergency work

Let us know if you need to carry out any emergency work in response to an unplanned occurrence which presents:

  • a risk of serious flooding to property
  • serious detrimental impact on drainage
  • serious harm to the environment
  • serious risk to public safety

You need to contact us as soon as practicable (via the email addresses below) and explain what activities have been carried out and the circumstances:

A pre-planned activity which has been planned in response to an emergency before it occurs will not be deemed as emergency works.