The ditch next to the road is full of water and is now flooding into my front garden, damaging the planting. It hasn't been cleared out for many years. Is the local highways authority responsible for maintaining it so that it can drain properly?
According to common law any water course, including ditches, which runs adjacent to a property is owned by the person who owns the property.
The landowner is responsible for the cost of maintenance of the ditch, keeping it clear of vegetation and so allowing the free flow of water through it.
I expect you are obliged to maintain this ditch on the edge of your land and if you do not, enforcement action can be taken against you under the Land Drainage Act 1991.
Roadside ditches are difficult because the local highways authority has a right to drain the highway to any roadside ditch, which could include private ditches like yours, even though common law imposes a duty on the owner of the land next to the highway to maintain the ditch.
If however a ditch has been specifically created by the local highways authority for the sole purpose of draining water from the highway, then it is the responsibility of the local authority to clear and maintain the ditch.
If the highways authority did not specifically create your ditch, then unfortunately you, as the adjacent landowner, are obliged to clear and maintain it.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.