Porthcurno - silicon surfing

Auction: Minack Lodge and Brackenbank house and property development August 2020

Minack Lodge street view

Minack Lodge front view

Update: final sale prices at auction were £485,000 and £565,000 on guide prices of £250,000 and £300,000 respectively.

Two scenic seaview properties at Porthcurno are on auction 23 August at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. Placed high above the historic Porthcurno valley, each enjoys a remarkable sea view across the Porthcurno bay and beach towards the iconic rock outcrop known as Treen Castle. Both properties are owned by a charity who received them as a bequest which apparently specified they should not be sold on, putting some interesting question marks over the process.

The Minack Lodge property has been derelict for years and until recently was entirely hidden behind an overgrown hedge.  This is on a tight bend on a steep hill just before the entrance to the busy Minack Theatre, where traffic grinds up and down all day at a snail's pace in season, rumbling around two sides of this plot and parking nearby. Given the condition of the stucture, the likely option would be to rebuild on the land, which was subject of a pre-planning application PA19/03238/PREAPP to Cornwall Council by owners Macmillan Cancer Care. You can read the Council's own Informal Advice comments in reply on the Cornwall Council website planning portal - Council pointed out the importance of development on this site fitting into the AONB and are unsympathetic to a two-storey construction. A Local Plan for local development in the parish of St Levan is currently in preparation.

Brackenbank, though accessed by the same busy road, is situated on a quieter lane and was inhabited until two years ago.  Aside from needing a new roof, and possibly some more contemporary redecoration, this is a habitable property with additional land. The additional land is, however, not likely to be suitable for additional development for a number of reasons, among them geology, the presence of badgers, the risk of landslip, and the fact that access to an additional property would have to be directly from the narrow, congested and crumbling Mansell's Hill road, not the quieter hilltop lane which gives access to the existing house. A very recent planning application PA19/10685 by Macmillan Cancer Care to build an additional property here, presumably intended to maximise resale value of an undeveloped plot, was withdrawn in the face of some very substantial objections, presumably to avoid a value-lessening rejection by Cornwall Council.  The objections make very interesting reading and should be considered by any investor.

Both properties regularly suffer a severe access limitation due to the relentless traffic caused by the profit-hungry Minack Theatre, and the structural limitations of the narrow Porthcurno valley road itself, worsened in summer by uncontrolled abusive parking on that road. Minack traffic is not limited to performance time - an extremely lucrative visitor centre charging £6.00 per head to enter, even to use the cafe or toilets, seeks to maximise its visitor numbers and there is an ongoing threat of increased parking and traffic at the Minack, though seemingly on hold in 2020 as reported in trade publication The Stage. In April 2019 a house on the same lane as Brackenbank nearly burnt down when the fire brigade were unable to get up the hill due to Minack traffic blockages, and were severely delayed, but very luckily with impromptu assistance did get there just five minutes before the house would have been lost.

Cornwall Council could conceivably impose payments on property development here to provide a much needed pavement and other improvements on the decaying Mansell's Hill road which leads up from the beach to the Minack and these and other properties in the Churchtown cul-de-sac. It is also conceivable that these properties might in future be affected by some earlier misguided and damaging path proposals in the vicinity. If the subsidence and cracking on the Mansell's Hill Road causes it to collapse, there will be no access at all to these properties until the road is reinstated by the Council.