Private Drains (Mostly) No More!
There are very many occasions when properties have a section of privately owned drains before connecting to the mains (“adopted”) sewers. These private drains can serve merely one property, but often are jointly used with neighbours, and sometimes an entire street(!) They can often be a bone of contention when something goes wrong and all the users have to contribute to repairs, and can also lead to legal difficulties where the necessary legal rights for them are not clear on the Deeds.
A big change is coming into force on 1st October 2011. From that date all “lateral drains” will become adopted drains and be the responsibility of the relevant Water/Drainage Authority. A “lateral drain” means the length of any drain that is either serving one property only and is outside the boundaries of that property, or serving more than one property. You can find a more detailed explanation here – www.southwestwater.co.uk/index.cfm?articleid=8026.
The effect of this is that if anything goes wrong with a lateral drain it is the Authority’s responsibility to fix it. However, these new rules massively increase the responsibility of the Authority – so do not expect someone to turn up that day if something does go wrong.
If you drain into a lateral drain, you may already have had a formal notice from the Authority. You do not have to do anything unless you want it to remain a private drain. In that case you have limited rights of appeal, details of which will be in the notice you receive.
The only “downside” that we can see is that current regulations preclude you from building over or within a fixed distance of an adopted drain. This does not affect existing extensions but if you are thinking of building, make sure your Architect/Designer is aware of any lateral drains going through your property.
Final point – this does not affect wholly private drainage systems e.g. into a septic tank, or private treatment plant - but for those, do remember the new obligation to have either a Discharge Licence or Exemption Certificate (see our news item “Septic Tank Owners”).