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Clearing drains and emptying gullies

What is a highway drainage gully?

A gully or drain is a large pot covered by a metal grid and is usually found at the edge of a road. They can also be found along the kerb line and these are referred to as kerb inlet gullies.  Surface rain water flows off the paved surface into these gullies then discharge usually via piped systems into roadside ditches, sewer systems, soakaways, catchpits and on occasion directly into watercourses. The majority of gullies are connected to public sewers that carry both foul and surface water. These sewers are owned and maintained by local Water Utility companies.

Who is responsible for cleaning gullies?

Transport for Buckinghamshire is responsible for the cleaning approximately 72,300 gullies on the publicly maintained highway. Gullies and surface water systems on private roads, parking areas or non-Council maintained land are the responsibility of the land owner. Any enquiries relating to sewage problems should be directed to the relevant Water Authority.

Cyclic gully cleaning service

Two medium volume gully tankers operate across Buckinghamshire. One vehicle and crew predominantly operate throughout Aylesbury Vale with the second machine and crew operating through the south of Buckinghamshire covering Wycombe, Chiltern & South Bucks Districts. Countywide, gullies located along A & B classified roads, as well as those in known flood locations are cleaned annually. All other gullies are currently cleaned on a three-year cyclic programme.

Reasons why flooding may occur

The highway drainage system has a maximum capacity. At times, the amount of surface water exceeds this, therefore taking longer for the highway to drain of water. Our highway drainage systems are reliant on unrestricted discharge into sewer systems, ditches and water courses. Combined surface water and sewage systems remain the responsibility of the water utility companies to maintain and keep flowing freely. Ditches are often filled by land owners and this action results in surface water being trapped on the highway. Ditch maintenance responsibility usually falls to the riparian landowner (under common law); more on this matter can be found on our website.

There is also a useful guide on the rights and responsibilities for riparian owners

We rely on the Environment Agency to keep watercourses flowing at maximum capacity to prevent river water surcharging through the system onto the highway. High river levels may also result in surface water being trapped on the highway. As river levels drop then water can flow from the carriageway back in to the river system.

There are many other reasons for flooding, such as third parties damaging our piped systems and failing to report it.

Reporting a blocked Gully

We provide a reactive service whereby blocked gullies identified through the regular highway inspection process or reported by customers are cleared outside of the planned cyclic cleansing programme.

You can report a blocked gully via our online reporting tool.

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