Rates FAQ’s & Common Queries.

Drainage rates are levied as a charge (at a rate of Xp in the £1) on agricultural properties in an internal drainage district.  The rates are levied to pay for the special local drainage or flood protection works which are carried out by the internal drainage board of that district.  The value on which rates are set basically represents 1991 land rental levels.

These rates are payable because you occupy agricultural property within an internal drainage district.  These districts are areas where special local measures are needed to properly manage flood risk.  These measures, involving maintenance, improvement or new works to watercourses or structures are managed by an internal drainage board and these boards levy rates on occupiers of property to meet their expenses.

Properties which are not used for agricultural purposes (as defined in the Local Government Finance Act 1988) do not receive a direct drainage rate demand.  Rates are however, effectively charged on these properties through the Special Levy issued to the local authority.

Agricultural use includes uses such as for paddocks and, to be rated, the land does not need to be used as part of an agricultural business.  If however, you still feel that your land is not used for agriculture please contact the Rates Office, who will arrange an inspection.

Within the Middle Level Commissioners’ area, land is double rated, being rated both by the Commissioners and the local internal drainage board, for their respective works.  Each issues a separate demand for rates and therefore each issues a demand for each parcel of land, in their areas.

Rates are payable because your property is in an internal drainage district and they meet the costs of the arterial protection provided by the Board of that district.  They are not charged because you do, or do not, have watercourses on your land.

The primary responsibility for the maintenance of any watercourse rests with the owner of that watercourse.  This will USUALLY be the owner of the land adjoining that watercourse.  Where a channel is marked as an IDB drain, that Board’s byelaws apply to it and the Board will often undertake required drainage works.  The Land Drainage Act 1991, under which the Boards operate, however, enables them BUT DOES NOT REQUIRE THEM to carry out drainage works.

Legally, they are due for payment IMMEDIATELY ie by return of post.

For Middle Level Commissioners’ rates, the LAST POSSIBLE DATE on which they can be RECEIVED at this office, without incurring the penalty imposed by the Middle Level Acts, is 31st October.  This is NOT the DUE DATE for payment.

No.  The demands are issued by separate authorities and each must be separately paid.

At present, we accept payment by cash, cheque, bank transfer, bank giro, direct debit and credit/debit card.

If this is the case, you must advise us by 15th October in the relevant year.

Your rate monies MUST BE RECEIVED by us not later than 31st October to avoid the penalty.  Dates of posting or bank payment are NOT RELEVANT.

The penalty date is NOT the due date for payment.  See questions 8, 9 and 13 above.  The amount of the penalty is fixed by statute.

Not later than 30th September in the relevant year.

Section 49 of the Land Drainage Act 1991 provides that anyone in occupation of land for any part of a year can be required to pay rates for the whole of that year.  However, they then have the right to recover a proportionate part of the rates paid from anyone else who has occupied the land during that year.  By ‘year’ we mean the financial year, running from 1st April to 31st March.  Your solicitor should have attended to this as part of the sale transaction.

See question 16 above.

We will need either a formal letter from a suitably qualified professional eg solicitor or surveyor or evidence of the transaction itself eg sight of Land Certificate or Lease.

Most of the fens area is at or below sea level and is dependent on the artificial flood defences constructed and maintained by the Middle Level Commissioners and/or other internal drainage boards (IDBs) and the Environment Agency to evacuate excess surface water and generally protect it from flooding. The Agency have produced maps of the vulnerable, low lying areas where the likelihood of flooding is greater than 1% a year (fluvial inland flows) or 0.5% a year (tidal) which are designated as ‘flood plain. ‘Defended floodplain’ in simple terms means those parts of those designated areas which are so defended.

No defences can provide absolute protection and defences can only operate up to the level of protection to which they are designed and maintained. Floods are classified as having a return period and the general level of defence provided in the Middle Level Commissioners’ area is against a flood of up to 1:100 years, which is a flood with a 1% chance of occurring in any year. It should also not be forgotten that very local problems can occur which are not within the control of the Commissioners or IDBs, e.g. flooding from sewers.

They are statutory flood defence bodies created within areas of special flood defence need and which provide a flood defence service within those areas, which are called ‘Districts’. The area of the District is set under statute. As well as the statutory District, (which is sometimes also called the “rateable area”) the Middle Level Commissioners or IDBs are sometimes also able to control certain operations in the catchment area draining to, but outside the statutory District. This part of the catchment area is called “the highland area”. To provide this service they maintain and improve watercourses and operate other assets, such as pumping stations and sluices. The Commissioners look after the major rivers of the area, such as the Forty Foot, Sixteen Foot, Whittlesey Dyke, King’s Dyke, Old Nene and the Middle Level Main Drain, etc. The smaller IDBs look after the smaller arterial watercourses within their Districts. All of these authorities have produced policy statements indicating the levels of service that they will provide.

Monies are raised primarily from a rate levied directly on agricultural properties within a District and a special levy, payable by the local district council, in respect of all other types of property. The membership is, therefore, made up of farming representatives, generally elected for a three-year term, or local authority representatives, basically pro rata to the proportions in which they fund the operations of the Commissioners or the IDB.

The Agency maintain main rivers (in this area the Peterborough Nene and the Great Ouse systems) and sea and tidal defences.

No. The majority of watercourses are ‘private’, which means that the owner of the watercourse or the owner of property adjoining the watercourse is responsible for that maintenance. The Commissioners maintain the major Drains, as referred to in 3 above, while IDBs will only usually maintain the more important watercourses in their District, designated as District Drains. While they have powers to do work or require work to be done by third parties on ‘private’ watercourses, the Commissioners or IDBs will only exercise such powers where the circumstances make it appropriate to do so, since they will be spending public money in doing so.

Contact the Middle Level Offices where staff will be pleased to advise you or look on our website at www.middlelevel.gov.uk.

For flood and watercourse queries outside a Drainage District please contact either the Lead Local Flood Authority (Cambridgeshire County Council or Norfolk County Council) or the Environment Agency.

You will need consent from the Middle Level Commissioners or the local IDB before any works in the channel, e.g. culverting or filling, are carried out, whether the watercourse is private or a District Drain.

If the watercourse is a District Drain, any work within the statutory byelaw distance requires the specific consent of the Commissioners or the IDB. The byelaw distances are 20 metres (66 feet) for a Middle Level watercourse and 9 metres (30 feet) for an IDB District Drain. You will also need consent to discharge an increased rate or volume of flow to a watercourse, for which a charge, based on the cost of dealing with such extra rate or volume, is levied. The monies so raised are used to help pay for the extra maintenance or capital works required as a result of such development.

Do not forget that other consents, such as planning permission, Environment Agency consent, e.g. for impounding structures, and water quality and local authority consent for culverting, may also be required.

The link below opens a pdf document, provided by the Environment Agency, outlining the rights and responsibilities of those who own land or property next to a watercourse.

Living on the Edge

Middle Level Commissioners
85 Whittlesey Road
PE15 0AH

Tel. 01354 653232
Fax 01354 659619

e-mail enquiries@middlelevel.gov.uk
website www.middlelevel.gov.uk