The Minack Theatre in Cornwall has found itself at the centre of a row over car parking, with the venue retracting plans to convert an empty field into new facilities despite being given the green light by council chiefs.
The outdoor theatre, built into the cliffs above the popular Porthcurno beach, said it had listened to objections from residents and community organisations and would no longer seek to create an overflow car park next to the venue for the summer season this year.
A planning application submitted in late 2019 received nearly 60 objections, with local residents arguing that the car park would be create an “eyesore” and would be “harmful” to the surrounding landscape and coastal path, as well as encouraging more traffic to an already busy tourist area.
In its application, the Minack acknowledged that its current parking facilities were sufficient for the numbers attending shows, which total about 80,000 per year, but said a high volume of visitors to the beach during summer months meant theatre patrons were unable to find a space. It argued that providing additional parking would help resolve the issue both for theatre and non-theatre visitors.
In addition to concerns raised by residents, the National Trust argued that the proposal “fails to meet” the Cornwall local plan and the aims of the National Planning and Policy Framework, while Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty representatives said: “The proposed development would, in our opinion, give rise to continued undue harm to the local landscape and visual amenity.”
Despite these concerns, Cornwall Council approved the application last month with some conditions such as that the area should not be built on or covered with tarmac, that it can only be used during certain hours and must not have floodlighting.
The Minack said it had discussed the application with the Coastal Community Team in Porthcurno prior to submission and had believed the local community thought that accepting overflow beach traffic would be a benefit to the community.
“As there is so much objection to us using the old sports field as an overflow car park for Porthcurno beach and PK Porthcurno’s car parks we have undertaken not to use the field for this purpose in 2020,” a statement said.
“This means we will be turning away any traffic that arrives at the Minack that are not our visitors. We plan to change the brown sign in Porthcurno which has a blue ‘P’ next to the Minack to remove this parking symbol as it implies we have a public car park at the Minack,” the theatre said, adding that anyone requesting the field be opened because the town’s main car parks are full would be “politely declined in 2020”.
The theatre added that it would only change its position if the local associations it had consulted request it to reconsider.
The Minack first applied for planning consent for the car park extension in 2017, and was granted temporary permission for two years.