Adoption of private sewers and lateral drains by water authorities

The government has approved legislation (The Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011) that from the 1st October 2011, transfers the ownership of all privately owned shared drains to the relevant water authority, which from then on will become 'public sewers.' The relevant water authority for the borough of Oadby and Wigston is Severn Trent Water Limited.

The private sewers and lateral drains legislation do not amend the drainage legislation within the Building Regulations and to date, local authorities have received no guidance from the government on how this will impact on the requirements of the Building Regulations. It is however assumed that there will be a joint responsibility between the local authority and the water authority to approve new drainage systems.

Private pumping stations which form part of the drainage arrangements and which are on pipework that transfers on 1 October will transfer later. Such pumping stations will transfer between 1st October 2011 and 1st October 2016, with all pumping stations that have not been transferred before then transferring on 1st October 2016.

Water companies should already have contacted all bill payers in their areas to explain the changes.

For further information on the transfer of your drains to the water authority and any impact this may have on proposals to extend your property, please contact either:
Severn Trent Water on telephone 08456 016 616 or visit their web site , or,
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on telephone 08459 335 577 or visit their web site

Public and private sewers/drains

There are different names for the pipes commonly used to discharge foul and stormwater from buildings, namely:-

  • Private drain - a drain serving a single premise,
  • Private sewer - a drain serving two or more premises, or
  • Public sewer - a drain serving two or more premises owned or adopted by the sewerage undertaker (Severn Trent Water Limited).

The vast majority of private drains and sewers in the normal circumstance will discharge into a public sewer, in certain circumstances what might initially appear to be a private sewer may, in fact, be a public sewer. A public sewer is a sewer which is vested in a sewerage undertaker, within the Borough of Oadby and Wigston this is Severn Trent Water Limited. The majority of public sewers run under public roads, however, in some instances, they can be found to cross private land. If the sewer to your property was built before October 1937 then it is also considered to be a public sewer under the provisions of Section 24, of the Public Health Act 1936. If you think that the sewer serving your home might be a Section 24 or adopted public sewer then you should clarify the matter with Severn Trent Water Limited who will be able to supply you with a definitive answer.

Public Sewer Important Information (PDF Document, 71.93 Kb)

The requirement

When building over or within three metres of a public sewer the Approved Document to regulation H4 (building over sewers) of Building Regulations 2010 makes it clear that;

  • you must consult with the sewerage undertaker,
  • adequate provision is to be made to prevent any undue risk to the building in the event of a failure of a drain or sewer,
  • access to the drain or sewer must be maintained externally to any building or extension at all times,
  • the drain or sewer must be adequately protected during construction, and
  • adequate provision is to be made for the protection of a drain or sewer from any settlement.

For further clarification on these items, you should refer to Approved Document H of the Building Regulations 2010 [external link].

Building regulations submission

Making a Building Regulation submission where building over or within three meters of a public sewer up to 225 millimetres in diameter will require a Full Plans Submission under the regulations, a building notice cannot be accepted in these circumstances.

As part of the process, building control will establish from Severn Trent Water Limited that you have obtained their consent and agreement to the works, to be able to issue an approval under the building regulations.

How to see if a public sewer is affected

Information on the siting of the public sewers can be obtained from Severn Trent Water's records management centre by telephoning them on 0845 601 6616. A copy is also available at the council offices and is available for inspection upon request. However, copies or photographs of these cannot be taken and these are not as concise as the records held by Severn Trent. If a public sewer could be affected by proposed building works, it is advisable to obtain consent from Severn Trent Water before making a building regulations application. This will avoid delay in the full plans approval process. Further advice and an application form can be obtained from the Severn Trent web site [external link] or by one of the following contact methods:-

By telephone:-

Leicester (0116) 234 3834

In writing:-

Severn Trent Water Limited
Asset Protection East
Gorse Hill

Last updated: Monday, 8 January 2024 1:45 pm