Are you planning to expand or renovate your home? Remember that you need our permission to build near or over a sewer. Edward explains how you can give your home improvement projects the best chance of success by knowing the law and what steps you need to take to proceed with confidence.
As one of our survey technicians, Edward Mann investigates problems on our network, such as flooding and incidents of odor pollution and rodent infestations. He regularly visits clients’ properties and discovers problems with work that a landlord has had done. In many cases, the problem could have been avoided if the correct steps had been followed when planning the work. Ed explains…
What’s the challenge with home improvements?
“When planning to improve their home, people usually focus on getting planning permission from the local authority. But they are often unaware that they may also need our permission if they plan to build above or within three meters of a sewer.
Thousands of customers are upgrading their homes all the time. But if no one tells us, we may only know when something is wrong. For example, a pipe may be damaged during construction work, a sewer may collapse under the weight of a new structure, or manholes may be buried making it difficult for us to access and maintain sewers at long term.
Although most City & Guilds approved builders should know the correct steps to follow, the owner eventually ends up in trouble if these steps are ignored. Once the work is done, it can be difficult to know what has been done and how to fix the problems without exposing the foundation of the building, diverting the sewers or, in the worst case, demolishing the work to access the sewers.
What type of work should people contact Southern Water for?
“The type of work we are talking about is vast. Homeowners can lay patios, landscape their gardens or have verandas or extensions added to their homes. Meanwhile, major projects include commercial buildings demolished and replaced with residential properties served by private pumping stations.
Either way, getting our permission first helps everyone. This allows us to protect our network from problems, while the homeowner has less risk of unforeseen problems like flooding in or around their home, disruption of drainage to neighboring properties – or works that need to be demolished so that we can access the sewer later. .”
What should owners do?
“To ensure the supply of running water to the houses and to evacuate waste water, we have an extensive network of pipes under the streets, gardens, fields and other lands. If you’re building something new, chances are there’s a sewer pipe nearby. In particular, in built-up areas.
If there are sewer pipes on your property, consider how they relate to the location, size and design of any improvements you plan to make to your home before you begin construction. If you plan to build above or within three meters of them, you will need to apply to build above a sewer. We rarely refuse a request, but we can provide feedback on your plans to ensure our sewers are protected.
Knowing who is responsible for sewers and drains within your property boundaries can be tricky, especially after legislation has prompted the transfer of private sewers to us in some cases. If you need help identifying sewers within your property boundaries, your architect or builder may be able to help. Details of drainage devices may also be included in the legal documentation for your property. Additionally, we can check if nearby sewers are going to be affected if you let us know your plans. Sometimes we can tell from our database. Other times we may have to visit and take a look. Please wait to be sure before carrying out any work.
Once your application has been approved, you will receive a construction agreement. This legal document assures us that the work will not negatively affect the sewer below and that we will still be able to access the sewer for any future repair and maintenance work.
If you rarely turn down a Build Over deal, why do customers need one?
“If you don’t receive a construction agreement for this type of work, you may find it difficult to obtain a certificate of completion or to ‘sign off’ your work with a building control expert. You may also run into difficulties when you have just sold your property, as a buyer’s lawyers may want to see the proper documentation for any work you have done.
Unless you have a building agreement, we also have a legal right to enter the property to access the sewer, even if that means demolishing the structure above. Getting an agreement protects your property from this kind of action. »
What about water pipes?
“Although we can give you permission to build over a sewer, you will never be allowed to build over a water supply pipe. If your plans may affect nearby water lines, you may need to request a water line diversion.
Also, if your plans include new connections to our network, you will need to request them separately. For example, if you are building a new bathroom with a water supply and drainage, you will need to request a water connection and a sewer connection.
What if you’ve already built an extension without our permission?
“If what I’ve said has left your hair on end because you’ve already had an extension done without permission, you can relax – as long as you take the right steps now.”
The good news is that you can get a retrospective construction agreement. Just tell us what work you did, and things like materials used, so we can update our records. We can come take a look and in some cases you may be asked to make changes. But once the agreement has been granted, the matter is settled.
Find out and apply to build over a sewer.