How to…

Connect to the public sewer

The most common reason for needing to connect to the public sewer is when you have built a new house, or several. You’ll normally lay all the services in private property yourself including Gas, Electric, Water, BT and drainage, or your builder or groundworker will do so. But you cannot ordinarily do the work in the Highway yourself - this will include the verge/pavement and the carriageway (which is a posh word for the ‘road).


The water company will lay the water pipe in the Highway and do the connection to the water main, BT/Openreach will lay the BT in the Highway and do the connection, the same for electric and gas etc. But when it comes to continuing to lay the drainage in the Highway and make the connection onto the public sewer, you will need to employ a Private Contractor to do this, and not just any contractor. The contractor must be approved by the Water Authority in question, i.e. Anglian Water or Severn Trent, they must hold £10 million public liability insurance as opposed to the usual £2 million, they must have NRSWA accreditations - this allows them to ‘dig up the road’ - and of course they must have the technical ability and experience, it’s not a simple job!


JW Clark Ltd are approved contractors for most Water Authorities, click here for a quote. But we’re not just trying to sell our services here, we’re trying to help as with all of our How To guides, so a bit more explanation below:


First of all, make sure you start planning your Sewer Connection at the beginning of your project, not towards the end. You’ll normally be looking at a minimum lead time of 2 months from start to finish, mainly to get all the paperwork in order, but sometimes more. It’s not unknown for the applications required to take in excess of 3 or 4 months, sometimes 6 months, there’s more explanation on that below.


Your first step is to apply for permission to connect to the public sewer, from whichever Water Authority owns the sewer, such as Anglian Water or Thames Water etc. The Water Authority which supplies your clean drinking water will normally be the one which owns the public sewers in your area, though there are some exceptions. Before you apply for permission - and ideally before you even think about building a house somewhere or buying a plot of land - you will want to make sure there is a public sewer in the vicinity. 9 times out of 10 there will be one running down the road outside your property but beware, the nearest sewer can sometimes be a lot further away, sometimes making it cost-prohibitive to connect, and making you wish you hadn’t bought that plot of land in the first place…. Sorry to scare you here, but it does happen. 


To obtain a drawing showing the nearest public sewer, contact the relevant Water Authority. If you’re lucky enough to come under Anglian Water, they have a really user-friendly online service You will have to pay a small fee to most Water Authorities, normally £20-£30


So you’ve found the sewer and it’s not too far away, now you need to apply to the Water Authority for permission to connect, via a ‘Section 106’ application. All of the Water Authorities have their Section 106 applications online now, and some even have the whole application process online, Anglian Water included. In the event that JW Clark Ltd are facilitating your connection to the sewer, we will normally act as the Agent  when it comes to doing the Section 106 application. For this we will need the following information from you the developer or owner:


  • Proof of planning permission
  • A site plan showing the boundary of the property
  • A drainage plan for the property. This must show the rainwater drainage and where it goes to, i.e. to soakaways and also the foul. The drawing should show the foul going all the way to the Public Sewer in the Highway, it should show the method of connection* and the size and location of the existing Public Sewer in the Highway


*The method of connection will normally be one of the following:


i) Junction InsertionThis is the most common type of connection. Basically you are taking a section of the existing Public Sewer out, and replacing it with a ‘Y-junction’. This is normally suitable for 1 house up to about 6 properties, and for a Public Sewer up to about 300mm in diameter (which is most of them).


Junction Insertion


ii) Saddle Connection. This is suitable again for 1-6 properties, but only when the Public Sewer is 375mm or more in diameter. You would only normally find this size of sewer on main roads through a large town or city.


Saddle Connection


iii) Construction of new manholeThese can generally be built on any size of pipe, but are only normally required when you are building a large  number of properties. This is also your most expensive method of connection. 




You’ll have to pay a fee to the Water Authority for the application, normally upwards of £400. Under OFWAT regulations, they have to respond to you within 15 working days. In our experience they will often respond a lot sooner, often within a week or so, but be prepared to wait during busy periods. 


All being well you will receive an ‘Approval Letter’ at the end of the process, and then you’re ready to move onto the next step…….  The Section 50 Application to Highways….!  


In the event that JW Clark Ltd are acting as your Agent, we will normally apply for this on your behalf. In any case, it is rarely something that you want to be doing as a homeowner, builder or developer. This is best left to the people who are doing the work, those who are going to be ‘digging up the road’. 


(By the way, if you’re lucky enough that the Public Sewer is in Private Property and not in the Highway, you won’t need a Section 50 from Highways. But you’ll still need the Section 106 described above, the ‘permission to connect’)


The Section 50 application is, again, normally an application you will find online. Each County has their own Highways department. For example, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire etc. As part of the application you will need to prove:

  • That you have permission to connect to the Public Sewer, this is where your Approval Letter comes in, which you get following a successful Section 106 Application to the Water Authority
  • Proof of £10 million Public Liability Insurance
  • Proof of NRSWA Accreditation - this is a qualification held by those who are to do the actual work in the Highway
  • Proof that you have obtained Utility Drawings for all the different utilities that could be in the Highway where the work is to take place, i.e. Gas, Electric, Water etc
  • Traffic Management Plan, showing method of Traffic Management* and how all cones, barriers and signage will be set up


*There are several types of Traffic Management (TM) available, and you don’t normally get to choose! You need to choose the type that is required, with various factors considered.


i) Give & Take. This is one of the simplest and therefore the cheapest. Basically reserved for nice quiet, straight roads, 30mph at most and with no complications. Basically you are trusting drivers to behave amicably and let each other through in turn.


ii) Traffic lights. More for busier roads and those faster than 30mph, and for works carried out on a ‘bend’. Traffic lights can be quite simple 2-way set-ups, or 3-way for a junction, though in some complicated situations they could be 4-way or 5-way etc. 


Traffic Lights


iii) Road Closure… The dreaded Road Closure - the most expensive TM by far! Also known as a TR1, this type of TM will require an extra fee to Highways, often in excess of £2,000. You will also need the traffic to be diverted, which requires lots of planning and setting up diversion signs etc, and again, extra cost. This method of TM can be required for a whole bunch of reasons, most commonly the road not being wide enough for other methods of TM, and often when Manhole Construction is required. Unfortunately the dreaded Road Closure is becoming more and more common, as Highways look to enforce the safest method of TM. Don’t worry though, in the event that we are acting as Agent we will only ever choose a Road Closure if it’s really needed, and in the event that Highways request one, we will always work to persuade them of another method of TM where we think it to be appropriate.  Oh, and for a Road Closure there is normally a 3-month legal lead time required in advance of the work starting.


Road Closure


In the event that JW Clark Ltd are carrying out the work for you and acting as the Agent, we will recommend the most suitable method of Traffic Management for the given situation, and we will organise and co-ordinate the set-up from start to finish. 


Highways departments can get notoriously busy and so you won’t always get a quick response to your Section 50 application. We have known certain Highways departments to not even look at an application for 8-10 weeks. And even after that there could be weeks of them asking you questions, you supplying them with answers, then waiting for them to come back to you again. We don’t say all of the above to scare you or to over-dramatise this article, but to prepare you for what is often a very long process.


At the end of the process they will issue you with a Section 50 Licence, which will normally be valid for a period such as 12 months. Just because you have a Licence in your hand though, this does mean you are ready to ‘dig up the road’ - far from it. You then have to apply to use your licence, by booking ‘roadspace’, which you will have to give the required notice for. Your licence will normally be for a maximum period of time (to do the work). For example a 3-day Licence for very small works, or 1 week or 2 weeks, or often more for larger projects. The longer the period, the more notice you will need to give to Highways to use your licence. Your licence may state that you have to give 4 weeks’ notice to use it. That doesn’t mean your Roadspace will be granted though when you ask for it. There has to be no other roadworks going on by others in the vicinity. And in the vicinity can mean different things to different councils, some won’t want you working on one side of the road when others are working on the other side of the road, whilst other councils won’t want you working on a main road for example when there are works going on half a mile away. Roadworks are unpopular, and they don’t want too many going on at once. 


In the case of a Road Closure (TR1) your Roadspace will be subject to more restrictions. For example there has to be no other work going on not only where you are working, but also where you are diverting the traffic to.


With all of the above in mind, we cannot stress enough that if you are building a new property or needing to connect to the sewer for whatever reason, speak to us at the very beginning of your project. It is not uncommon for us to be asked to connect somebody to the sewer, and upon doing a site visit we find the carpets going down and “people are hoping to move in next week”. In the most extreme cases, it can take 6 months or more to get connected to the Public Sewer.


Once your connection is done to the sewer and whilst the excavation in the Highway is still open, it will need inspecting by the relevant Water Authority. In the event that JW Clark Ltd are undertaking your sewer connection, we will take care of all this. And at the end of the process you will receive a formal sign-off from the Water Authority. This is important, keep it safe, you will normally need it to be able to sell the property or to get a mortgage or remortgage later on. 


If you would like a quote for a Sewer Connection, we tend to cover all areas whereby Anglian Water, Severn Trent or Thames Water are the relevant Water Authority. Email us here for a quote, and if possible include as much of the following as possible:


  • Full site address
  • Site Plan
  • Drainage Plan for the site
  • Drawing obtained from Water Authority showing location and depth of Public Sewer
  • Approval Letter from Water Authority (in the event that you already have this)


We can quote for most sewer connections without coming to site, but of course if you wish to proceed then we will always come to site to confirm our price. 

All of the above is intended as a rough guide to getting connected to the public sewer, if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to ask. For more information and more FAQs please click here


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