Sidmouth's 'fantastic' new amphitheatre 'an asset to the town'

Amphitheatre in the grounds of The Knowle, Sidmouth

The new amphitheatre in the grounds of The Knowle, with underground water storage tanks for flood alleviation - Credit: Archant

A new amphitheatre and flood reduction scheme in the grounds of the Knowle has been officially opened. 

The amphitheatre, with its central area surrounded by shallow tiers of grass, will be used for outdoor events and performances.  

But it is also a clever piece of engineering, providing a decorative cover for underground storage tanks that can hold 150,000 gallons of water. 

Tiered seating in Sidmouth's amphitheatre

Another view of the amphitheatre. showing the tiered seating - Credit: Archant

During very heavy rainfall, surface water will be channelled from Station Road through pipes into the parkland and into a shallow trough in the ground called a swale towards the amphitheatre, where it will soak into the underground containers. 

This is the first phase of the scheme; the second will involve drainage improvements in the town centre. The overall project aims to reduce the flood risk to more than 100 properties.  

It has been a partnership initiative involving Devon County Council, East Devon District Council which owns the land, Sidmouth Town Council, engineering consultancy Jacobs, the Environment Agency and South West Highways. 

The amphitheatre was officially opened on Friday, October 22 by the chair of Devon County Council, Jeff Trail BEM, who described it as ‘a fantastic addition to the town’. 

County counil chair Jeff Trail cuts the ribbon to open the amphitheatre

The chair of Devon County Council Jeff Trail BEM performs the opening ceremony - Credit: Archant

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Sidmouth councillor Stuart Hughes, the county council’s cabinet member for highway management, congratulated all those involved, saying: “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.” 

The centre of Sidmouth's amphitheatre, with decorated stonework

Detail of the decorative centrepiece of the amphitheatre - Credit: Archant

Some local residents had expressed concern that the work took so long to complete. It began in August 2020 and was expected to take only a few months. 

Paul Hargreaves from Jacobs told the Sidmouth Herald that part of the design had to be changed when Covid restrictions prevented some of the materials from being imported from Europe. Then months of wet weather left the ground too saturated to work with and the contractors had to simply wait for it to dry out. 

He said he was very pleased with the final result: “It’s a beautiful finish and hopefully It'll be a fantastic asset for the people of Sidmouth.” 

Sidmouth Town Council chairman Ian Barlow at opening of amphitheatre

The chairman of Sidmouth Town Council, Ian Barlow, addressing guests at the opening ceremony - Credit: Archant

Information board at Sidmouth's new amphitheatre

An information board at the entrance to the amphitheatre explains how the flood alleviation scheme works and gives more details about the site. - Credit: Archant

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