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Flooding, Cleaning Drains & Gullies

Highways Flooding Braidley Rd

Road Gullies and Drains

Bournemouth Council is the Highway Authority and as such has a statutory duty to maintain all public roads and pavements forming the highway in the Borough. A very important part of this maintenance is drainage.


New roads include designed drainage systems intended to remove water efficiently from the surface of the highway to provide a safe passage for all vehicles and pedestrians. Older roads may have less sophisticated drainage, but all have features designed to take the water away from the road surface. In some rural areas or on very minor roads, this may simply be a ditch leading to a watercourse. However the law recognises that it is impossible to completely drain the highway in all circumstances so for example during torrential rainfall a driver must exercise reasonable care based on the conditions at the time.


It is necessary to clean and maintain these drainage provisions so that they can work properly. Most gullies in Bournemouth connect through a drain pipe typically 100mm or 150mm in diameter to the main sewer, usually in the road. This can be either a surface water sewer which eventually will discharge into a stream / river / sea or the “combined” sewers where it ends up at the treatment works mixed with all the other sewage for treatment. Occasionally they will drain to a soakaway in the verge.

Typical Gullies

Typical Gully 1  Typical Gully 2  

Typical Side Entry Gullies

Typical Side Entry Gully  Typical Side Entry gully 2

Typical Kerb Drains & Slot Drains

kerb drainTypical Slot Drain








Pedestrian Channels & Drainage Gratings

Pedestrian Channels               Pedestrian Footway Drain         









Cleaning Gullies

Gullies are normally cleaned by lifting the metal grating or cover and sucking all the dirt out using a gully sucker machine. When the gully sucker is full the material has to be taken to a special licensed tip to comply with the requirements of The Waste Management Regulations.


Most gullies are designed to trap smells coming back up from the pipes but in very dry weather they can dry out and allow smells to escape. This can usually be easily solved by refilling the gully pot with water.


Problems can occur even when drainage installations are clean and well maintained. When the volume of water arriving on the highway is greater than the capacity of the drainage facilities designed to take it away, roads can become flooded or waterlogged. This can be caused by exceptional rainfall, a road being located in a low-lying area, change in "run-off" from adjacent areas, or rivers overflowing etc. Material carried into the drains by floods can also lead to them becoming blocked. Drainage grills and gratings (e.g. on gullies) can become blocked very quickly when materials like mud are deposited on the road or when there is a heavy fall of leaves especially in the Autumn.


Many gullies have old brickwork chambers underneath or old pipes which have settled or are cracked and these can leak. There is no general requirement for the Highway Authority to prevent this or standard to be achieved. (See information on basements and cellars on our flooding page).


Water is directed to drains by the road profile. Puddles (ponding) tend to occur if there is a depression in the road. Where feasible, this can be rectified by local patching of the road surface. 


Flooding on or from the Public Highway

For other types of flooding see our web page on flooding|

Highways Flooding

The Well Maintained Highways - Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance Management, July 2005, recommends that all highway gullies should be routinely cleaned once a year. Bournemouth Council is working towards this target, but the priority will always be instances of flooding or other urgent tasks (like gritting in winter) in order to minimise inconvenience to road users. In some areas, where the gullies are known to block regularly we do clean these more often.


The positions of all the Borough’s gullies have been logged on a computerised mapping information system and total over 24,000 at the last inventory. We are in the process of fitting our gully sucker lorries with GPS tracking and hope shortly to be able to provide a link to allow residents to see when a particular gully was last cleaned.

A highway inspector investigates first reports of blocked gullies and decides on the required action.

Some of the problems experienced during the gully cleansing operation are:

Gullies that have been used for fly tipping, even containing car batteries, sump oil, garden refuse or hardened concrete. This is illegal and we will prosecute any body found fly tipping

Vehicles parked over gullies which are programmed to be cleaned.

Grating covers stolen.

Grating covers dropped into the gully, which then requires excavation and replacement of the pot.

Any problems should be reported| giving the road name, gully position and as much detail as possible such as an adjacent house or lamp column number, your name and a contact telephone number or email address if you would like us to subsequently advise you of the actions that we have taken as a result of your report.