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Posted 16 August 2013
by Paul Kelly

How far does a council’s duty to prevent flooding extend?

The recent case of Vernon Knight Associates -v- Cornwall Council has shed some light on how far a council’s duty to safeguard against floodwater damage extends.

The case involved a holiday park whose grounds were flooded on two separate occasions in November 2006 and September 2008.

In 2000, Cornwall Council had installed various drains and gullies along the road running along the north boundary of the holiday park in question. These were effective at carrying away any water that collected along the road, however, they had a tendency to become blocked by leaves and other debris, increasing the likelihood of flooding during heavy rainfall.

Prior to the 2006 flood, it had been 6 weeks since someone on behalf of the council had inspected the area and as such, the drains were blocked and essentially ineffective. The torrential rain that followed resulted in the holiday park suffering extensive water damage.

The judge held that the council owed a duty to do what was reasonable to prevent or minimize the risk of flood damage to the holiday park and that they had failed in this duty. The judge investigated the procedures the council had in place to enable it to identify flooding ‘hotspots’ and decided that although this procedure was adequate, it had failed on two occasions, both of which had resulted in a financial loss for the park for which it was liable.

The decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

If you have suffered flooding and would like to know more about the potential liability of your local council, please contact the parks team for more information on 01392 207020 or email

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About the author

Paul Kelly

Partner and Solicitor

Paul is the managing partner of the firm