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Planning & Development

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Planning approval is required in order to legally carry out 'development' under the Town and Country Planning Act 1999. Planning and Building Control guidance is available

Environmental impact assessments (EIA’s) may be a legal requirement of your project as part of the planning process. You should contact your Local Authority planning department for advice on this part of your project. With careful planning you can reduce the risk of your work causing harm to the environment.

The Inland Fisheries Section require notification of any potential impact to water bodies as a result of development through the planning application process. An initial assessment may ask for further detail in the form of a 9 metre form. Further assessment may require a site visit to eliminate potential environmental risk from development plans and methods, considered on a site by site basis.  See River Management for advice.

If any material such as mud, silt, gravel or boulders are to be moved or added to the watercourse, consent must be obtained from DEFA Fisheries Division. A Material Extraction (Section 18) Application must be provided in order for consent to be considered by DEFA Fisheries. If required, a 'Development within 9m' form may be requested by Fisheries to gather further information from the applicant before a decision can be made towards any consent.


Many human activities can pollute rivers. Industry, housing, agriculture, horticulture, transport and discharges from disused mines on the Island can all affect water quality. Undertaking development and maintenance works in, near or around areas liable to affect surface waters and ground water can have the potential to cause severe water pollution or impact on the bed and banks of a watercourse and on the quality and quantity of the water. It is advisable to consult DEFA before beginning work connected to or near a watercourse, as every work site should be considered on a site by site basis.

Groundwater means all water below the surface of the ground that is in the zone of saturation (that is below the water table) and in direct contact with the land or subsoil. Surface water is that water which flows above ground but is often fed by groundwater from springs and seepages.

Pollution may arise as point sources, such as discharges through pipes which may be easily identifiable, or may be more dispersed over a wider area, known as diffuse pollution.

Potential pollutants from your type of works could include:

  • silt
  • cement and concrete
  • chemicals and solvents
  • bridge cleaning debris
  • herbicides
  • waste materials (including hazardous waste)

Activities causing silt pollution are may include disturbance of the river bed or bank, de-watering and pumping excavations, run off from exposed ground or plant washings, roads and fords.

Where run off water is contaminated with silt or other pollutants such as oil this water must not be pumped or allowed to flow directly or indirectly in to surface waters or groundwater without treatment.

Fresh concrete and cement are very alkaline and corrosive and are toxic to aquatic environments. Concrete and cement mixing and washing areas should be sited 10 metres from any watercourse or surface water drain, have settlement and re-circulation systems for water reuse and have a contained area for washing out and cleaning of concrete. Wash waters from concrete and cement works should never be discharged in to the water environment.

Make sure fuel, oil and chemical storage on site is secure. Site the storage on an impervious base within a secondary containment system such as a bund. The base and bund walls should be impermeable to the material stored and able to contain at least 110% of the volume stored. Site the storage area above any flood water level and where possible away from high-risk locations (such as within 10 metres) to minimise the risk of a spill entering the water environment. Keep a spill kit with sand, earth or commercial products that are approved for your stored materials, close to your storage area. Train staff on how to use these correctly. The risk of spilling fuel is at its greatest during refuelling of plant.

DEFA recommend the use of biodegradable chainsaw chain bar lubricant and biodegradable hydraulic oil in plant when working in or near watercourses. Biodegradable oils are less toxic than most of the synthetic oil but should still be stored and used to the same standards as other oils.

Dust, debris and wastewater are the most common pollutants produced by structure maintenance. You should choose a containment system designed to reduce the risk of pollution from your work.

Please report any potential pollution in any streams, rivers, reservoirs, lakes or the sea by calling +44 1624 685885 or email where an EPU Officer will investigate as soon as possible. For out of hours oil pollution response please contact +44 1624 697327. Train your staff and contractors in the use of spill equipment and how to manage and dispose of waste materials legally. EPU Officers have powers under the Water Pollution Act 1993 and Public Health Act 1990.

Additional information can be found from;

The Environmental Protection Unit

Environment Agency website, in particular the Pollution Prevention Guidelines.

Altering a Watercourse

Your rights as a riparian landowner have been established in common law for many years, but they may be affected by other laws. You may need permission for some activities from a third party, such as the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), the Department of Infrastructure (DOI) Flood Risk Management (FRM) or Manx Utilities (MU). The word riparian refers to anything relating to or situated on the banks of a river.

Inland Fisheries provide guidance on watercourse development regarding the protection of freshwater fish populations and habitats. For the protection of

It is a criminal offence to carry out works which affect flood defences or watercourses without permission from FRM. If you wish to carry out works affecting watercourses in the Isle of Man, an application for consent (Section 20) for works affecting watercourses must be provided to the DoI. Further information can be found at the Flood Hub website including information on Watercourse Management in the Isle of Man including a guide to the rights and responsibilities of riparian ownership.

The Department of Infrastructure’s (DoI) Flood Risk Management Division (FRM) operate under the Flood Risk Management Act 2013, providing core functions including protecting the Island from flood risks by providing, maintaining, monitoring, improving or extending FRM works and watercourses along ‘main rivers’.

The term ‘main river’, used in the repealed Land Drainage Act 1934, converts to a ‘designated watercourse’ under the Flood Risk Management Act 2013, and any other rivers and watercourses convert to non-designated watercourses. To avoid any doubt, a reference to a watercourse generally is a reference to both a designated and a non-designated watercourse.

Manx Utilities is a Statutory Board of the Isle of Man Government, sponsored by the Department of Infrastructure. Their policies and objectives are derived from various Acts of Tynwald including the Water Act 1991. Under this Act, the MU has the responsibility to supply water in the Island as well as processing waste water in accordance with the Sewerage Act 1999. Where new developments are proposed, the ability to effectively drain the site is very important. Further information is available on the Manx Utilities website.

Agriculture and Watercourses

Under the Inland Fisheries Act 2012, free river passage for freshwater fish is safeguarded, and all life stages of fish and their habitats are protected from disturbance and pollution. You must contact DEFA, Inland Fisheries Section, well in advance of any proposed works on or near any watercourse. Works likely to disturb the channel or destabilise banks should be avoided from October to June inclusive, in order to protect spawning and juvenile salmon and trout.

In accordance with Section 18 of the Fisheries Act 2012, consent must be sought from DEFA prior to removing material from the bed of any river. River in this instance is defined as ‘any natural or artificial channel through which water flows and includes a tributary or stream’. Material includes gravels, cobbles, boulders and soft sediment such as silt but does not include vegetation removed for the purpose of routine drainage management. Further information is available 

or Agricultural Development Scheme

Where action involves works that may affect a watercourse (whether or not designated as a ‘Main River’), e.g. riverbank engineering/protection; installation of bridges and pipes, consent must be sought from the DoI Flood Risk Management Division. Consent must also be sought before constructing anything or planting trees/shrubs within 30’ either side of a watercourse designated a ‘Main River’ under the Flood Risk Management Bill 2013.

Farmers wishing to dredge ditches and/or conduct related works such as hedge cutting on land designated as an ASSI should, in the first instance, contact the Department’s Biodiversity Officer (Designations), tel. 695737.

Statutory Management Requirements (SMR’s) are domestic requirements relating to EC Directives and Regulations which are specified by the European Commission. Under Protocol 3, all of these conditions are legally binding on farmers in the Isle of Man. These are viewable on the Departments website.

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