Work is set to begin on a £550,000 flood prevention scheme in Sidmouth that will double as a public amphitheatre.
It is part of a wider Devon County Council (DCC) initiative which aims to reduce flood risk to more than 100 homes and businesses nearby and in the town centre.
New drainage will be installed in Station Road to divert surface water away from the properties.
It will then run down a wildflower-lined swale into a newly-formed amphitheatre in the grounds of the Knowle.
An underground storage system will initially hold the floodwater – with a capacity for one-in-30-year storm event.
The amphitheatre’s tiered sections can also be filled, as needed, in more extreme weather.
Its above-ground section has capacity for up to half-a-metre of water – which would be the result of a once-in–century storm.
Work on the first phase is expected to be finished in November.
A DCC spokesperson said: “The scheme has been designed with the public open space nature of the Knowle in mind, moving away from a more traditional bund arrangement to one that can enhance the parkland and provide an amenity area for the community when the scheme is not required for floodwater storage.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for highway management and local member for Sidmouth, said: “I’m delighted that the first phase of this well-thought-out scheme is commencing.
“It ticks two very important boxes by reducing the flood risk to so many businesses and properties in the town and, also, with the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19, the amphitheatre provides a unique outdoor feature for Sidmouth that I’m certain will be well used including future folk festivals.
“It’s a win-win for the town.”
Cllr Ian Barlow, chairman of Sidmouth Town Council, added: “It’s great that a functional scheme to help with surface drainage can enhance the area and provide a useful community space for events while protecting it at the same time.
“Thanks have to go to Devon County Council and their engineers on producing this scheme, clearly demonstrating that helping to protect people doesn’t have to be visually intrusive and non-functional.”
The second phase of the scheme will focus on drainage improvements within the town.
It is currently being developed and expected to be delivered ‘next financial year’, says DCC.