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The Effect of the new Private Drainage Arrangements

The Water Industry (Schemes for Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011 (‘WIR’), further supported by the Government’s written ministerial statement of 6th September 2010, enforced 1st July 2011, intended to give effect to proposals from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to resolve multiple issues perceived with the regulation and maintenance of private sewers and drains. It has been estimated that approximately half of all UK domestic properties and connected to private sewers and drains, which cause significant difficulties in relation to ownership, repair, maintenance and charges.

The process of transferring the ownership of private sewers of both residential and commercial properties into the hands of the regulated sewerage companies should have been completed – with notice and subject to appeals – by 1st October 2011. Evidently some sewers and drains were exempted from this process, including those completed before 1st October 1937. Where a new connection is made on or after 1st July 2011 then a private drain or sewer will become public, subject to the necessary adoption provisions and deadlines highlighted in the WIR or by virtue of a Section 104 or other agreement.

Private drainage arrangements, such as sealed cesspools/cesspits or septic tank remain in place for many rural properties, and the installation of such systems require building regulations consent. Issues of surface water discharge should be tackled by property owners/purchasers, and an exemption certificate may be required for this purpose, subject to conditions. Those purchasing a property with a septic tank drainage system should also undertake searches of the Environment Agency Website at to check whether or not the property is within a ‘Zone One’ area, for which additional requirements and restrictions apply. While the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 introduced the requirement for an exemption certificate to be obtained from 1st January 2012 for all properties with a septic tank in England and Wales, a review of this requirement by the Environment Agency was initiated to establish details of the enforcement of this, and prospective purchasers or home-owners with such systems should investigate the certificate for their individual properties.

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