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First phase of Sidmouth flood alleviation scheme officially opened

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A new flood alleviation scheme in Sidmouth has been officially opened.

The first phase of our £1 million scheme has been completed, installing a new drainage system on Station Road to divert surface water away from properties and into a newly formed amphitheatre in the grounds of the Knowle.

Devon County Council Chair Jeff Trail BEM marked the opening at a brief ceremony with County Councillors, members of Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council.

An underground storage system beneath the amphitheatre has the capacity to contain floodwater up to a one in 30-year storm event. The tiered sections above ground can store up to half a metre of water during a one in 100-year storm event.

The scheme has been designed to use the public open space of the Knowle, providing an amenity area for the community when the scheme is not required for floodwater storage. This initial phase of the scheme is set to defend over 60 properties against a 100-year flood event, and will also save people in the town around £10million in terms of flood damage and recovery costs.

The second phase of the scheme will focus on drainage improvements within the town centre to benefit dozens more premises, and the overall project aims to reduce flood risk to a total of more than 100 homes and businesses in Sidmouth.

Councillor Jeff Trail BEM, Chair of Devon County Council, said:

“I am really pleased that Sidmouth can have its own amphitheatre – it will be a fantastic addition to the town. In terms of flood risk, it is the completion of the first of two phases of flood improvement works for the town that will allow homes and businesses to continue to be prosperous in times of extreme weather.

“Constructing a scheme such as this during a global pandemic has brought significant challenges especially when adding poor weather into the equation. I would like to pay thanks to East Devon District Council as landowners who have allowed this scheme to be built on their land and for working closely with us throughout its construction. I’m sure they are delighted with the new facility that has been provided for the town.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, said:

“Devon has invested significantly in identifying those in the county at most risk of surface water flooding. Sidmouth was identified as being particularly vulnerable as part of the Surface Water Management Plan produced by Jacobs, working in partnership with key stakeholders such as East Devon District Council, Sidmouth Town Council, the Environment Agency and South West Water.

“This is an excellent example of partnership working that has developed the scheme we see before us today, being one that moves away from the traditional bund storage for floodwater to provide a system that doubles up as a prominent and unique community asset. We hope that the community use and enjoy this unique space to its full potential when it’s not acting to protect the town, and I am sure that when it is needed the community will appreciate it for its primary purpose, as a flood defence asset.”

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highway Management and County Councillor for Sidmouth, said:

“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.”

Councillor Ian Barlow, Chair of Sidmouth Town Council, commented: “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. With DCC, EDDC and STC working together, it just shows what can be achieved.”

The scheme, constructed by South West Highways, has been developed through the County Council’s Surface Water Management Plan for Sidmouth after properties in the town were flooded in November 2014. It is being funded by Devon County Council, DEFRA Flood Defence Grant in Aid and a Local Levy contribution administered by the South West Flood and Coastal Committee.