An amphitheatre-style first phase of a £1million flood alleviation scheme in Sidmouth has been officially opened.
Devon County Council’s (DCC) drainage scheme in the grounds of Knowle, in Station Road, will divert surface water away from more than 60 properties.
It will double as a public open space for the community when it is not being used to battle the elements.
The project’s underground storage system has the capacity to contain floodwater up to a ‘one in 30-year storm event’.
Its tiered sections above ground can store up to half a metre of water during a ‘one in 100-year storm event’ – saving a potential £10million in damage costs.
The second phase of the scheme will focus on drainage improvements within the town centre.
Overall, the project aims to reduce flood risk to a total of more than 100 homes and businesses in Sidmouth.
DCC chairman Councillor Jeff Trail BEM hailed ‘a fantastic addition to the town’ and said: “Constructing a scheme such as this during a global pandemic has brought significant challenges especially when adding poor weather into the equation.”
He praised landowner East Devon District Council for its support.
Sidmouth representative and DCC cabinet member for highway management Councillor Stuart Hughes added: “I congratulate those involved in the delivery of these essential flood improvement works.
“No-one imagined that a scheme that obviously requires a significant volume of water to be intercepted and stored before it gets to the town, could in effect be hidden in plain sight, giving the community a real asset that will be a draw for people.
“In parallel to the delivery of this scheme, Devon County Council and its consultants have been investigating what the makeup of the phase two town centre works will include.
“While it’s likely to feature more traditional defences and drainage, I have no doubt that the attention to detail and care taken will be of the same high standard.”
Cllr Ian Barlow, chairman of Sidmouth Town Council, said: “I take my hat off to the engineers who have designed and provided not only a flood relief scheme but also an excellent new economic and social asset for our town.”
The scheme, constructed by South West Highways, has been developed through DCC’s Surface Water Management Plan for Sidmouth after properties in the town were flooded in November 2014.
It is being funded by DCC, Defra Flood Defence Grant in Aid and a Local Levy contribution administered by the South West Flood and Coastal Committee.