Developers try to overturn Moor Lane planning ruling

……..as Spark finally submit proposals for cladding their shipping container village

City of York Council has received notification from the Planning Inspectorate that the applicant for the Moor Lane planning application (18/02687/OUTM) has appealed the Council’s decision to refuse the outline permission for up to 516 residential units.

The Planning Inspectorate has notified the Council that the Inquiry will start on 12th November 2019 and it is anticipated that the Inquiry will sit for 12 days.

The Council will send notification of the appeal to any person who was notified or consulted about the application and any other interested persons who made representations.

If however the representation was part of a petition, each individual on the petition will not be notified by the Council.

Spark

Separately the Spark container village people have finally submitted details of their plans to provide cladding on the development frontage.

cladding plans

They say,  “We propose to attach to this frame a secondary timber structural frame which will be over clad with treated softwood or Siberian Larch battens of 50mm width running vertically with a 50mm gap forming a continuous wrap and palisade along the external boundary. The timber cladding will be overplanted with Clematis growing from planters situated at first floor level”.

The development reaches the end of its 3 year lease next June. We doubt very much whether even fast growing clematis will make much difference to its appearance during the intervening months.

NB. The Council has so far failed to say how much “profit share” they enjoyed from the Spark lease last year.

Spark still to submit planning appeal on cladding

Freedom of Information response confirms no rent or rates paid

Spark was closed yesterday

Despite receiving a decision notice which required the company to implement the original planning condition which included providing cladding on the outside of the containers on Piccadilly, Spark still haven’t started work.

The decision notice was issued on 21st August, over 2 months ago.

Spark were publicly quoted as saying that they would “appeal” to the Secretary of State against the Councils decision. They haven’t done so yet and indeed it could be another 4 months before they have to register an appeal.  Even then Planning Inspectors could take several months to determine the case. That might be close to the May 2020 end of their lease for the site.

The Council says, “It is the view of planning officers that it would be inappropriate and unreasonable for the planning authority to attempt to take planning enforcement action whilst they exercise their right to challenge the Council’s decision”.

Their position ignores the fact that the developers have been in breach of the planning conditions for over 6 months now and that they have failed to record an appeal against the August planning refusal.

With containers having been in place since September 2017, that would mean that the ugly frontage would potentially have been on public view for over 2 years.

A Freedom of Information response (ref: IGF/10492) has confirmed that Spark have not yet paid any rent or rates on their development. The rates issue is blamed on delays in the Valuation Office who have yet to respond to a valuation request issued to them in May 2018.

Developers call “foul”

It appears that the Council issued a contract to Spark which didn’t require any rent payments to be made until March 2019.  It is unclear whether the council collects rent 12 months in arrears on the other properties that it rents in the City (Council house tenants pay rent fortnightly).

The FOI does confirm that building control agreement hasn’t been issued

The original building regulation application was approved at the site, however this has subsequently been amended to incorporate roof cover which is currently being assessed. As soon as this is complete a Completion Certificate will be issued for the site”.

Perhaps not surprisingly other developers in the City are now crying “foul” and are claiming that there is no longer a level playing field.

Containergate rumbles on – planning appeal lodged

Spark, the operator of the shipping container “village on Piccadilly, are to appeal against the Councils decision to require them to clad the front of the containers. Spark offered the cladding when they originally sought planning permission but later changed their minds and painted “street art” on some of the containers on the Piccadilly frontage.

In May they sought retrospective planning permission for the change, but this was turned down by the Planning Committee in August. They have now appealed against that decision with the Planning Inspectorate likely to take several months to take a view. It is understood that the Council has decided not to take enforcement action in the interim

The Piccadilly site is owned by the Council, which has spent around £60,000 installing services and subsiding improvements.

The company had originally claimed they could not afford the cladding, but they have now written to prominent Councillors saying that their tenants have taken “£1.2 million” since opening, “more than twice the original forecast”.

That may be good news for taxpayers, as the Council is set to get a share of the “profits” …..but there will be no share out before April 2019 at the earliest.

It has emerged that Sparks have not yet paid any rent. They have had beneficial occupation of the site since the beginning of September 2017.

The Council have been asked to confirm that Business Rate payments are up to date.

Spark have applied for planning permission to fit a “roof” on the site.

At the same time, they have announced that they will open for only 5 days a week (closing on Tuesday and Wednesday from later this month).

There are conflicting reports about the number of small businesses which are being sustained on the site. Some have not been able to make a go of the site, with one blaming the drink culture for scaring away family customers. 3 complaints about external noise levels have been received by the Council.

Spark however claims that, of the 21 letting units, all but two are taken: 9 food, 4 drink and 6 retail outlets.

Depends whether you believe the spin, but clearly the alcohol-based units businesses got a summer boost from the World Cup and hot weather.

The lift, which will allow the village to meet disabled accessibility standards, will be operational this week according to Spark. They have, however, been unable to secure insurance which would indemnify the Council in the event of a business failure.

Council officials are content to rely on the resale value of the containers to secure taxpayers’ interests. Many of the containers have been refashioned to meet the specific needs of the Piccadilly site.

The approach taken by York Councillors, to the claims made before agreeing to lease the land to Spark, can still be viewed “on line”. The meeting which took place in November 2016 can be seen by clicking here Agenda Item 73 

Sparks container village – deadline for disabled access lift passes

Street “art” still dominates Piccadilly

Anyone expecting to see the disabled lift installed at the Sparks site on Piccadilly may be disappointed. Users say that it is still missing despite public promises made to the planning committee in August that it would be available for use by the end of September.

The same meeting was told that the project was highly successful. Others have,however, claimed that many of the original tenants have now quit the site, with only alcohol sales thriving.

Anyone expecting to see the street art graffiti removed from the Piccadilly frontage will also be disappointed. There is no sign of the cladding which should have been provided before the site opened in April.

Sparks have enjoyed beneficial occupation of the site since September 2017

Responses by Council officials to a series of Freedom of Information requests by local architect Matthew Laverack may give rise to even more concern.

The requests probe the role of the York Council as the landlord for the site. They agreed that the shipping containers could be put on the land despite pressure to advertise the site for permanent development. Many regarded the terms of the deal as generous with the Council pitching around £60,000 into the project.

Insurance requirements in the lease have apparently not been met and the Council’s building control section haven’t signed off the site as complete.

The mainstream media have been very quiet about these planning and lease breaches, while the Councils planning enforcement team has so far been wholly ineffective.

The contract allows for the Council to take back the site if, after 21 days, the tenants have failed to pay the rent or complied with their obligations under the Lease.

The Council will likely face an Ombudsman referral unless it gets its act together

NB Empty properties nearby are being offered free of charge on a short-term lease to voluntary organisations. There have been no takers.

Beauty in the eye of the bank manager

The debt laden and controversial “Spark” container village has now applied for permission not to implement the site screening which was a condition of approval in 2017.

Planning permission screening 2017

At that time, several objectors had described the old shipping containers as an eyesore. Most saw the plan as inappropriate for a sensitive City centre location and the expectation was that the site would be better developed on a permanent basis.

The site is owned by the York Council introducing a potential conflict of interest when consideration of the planning applications.

There was a strong view expressed that, if temporary planning permission was granted, then the buildings and scaffolding should be painted in a neutral colour.  This would minimise the impact that the development would have on the neighbourhood.

Spark April 2018

In the event, the developers surprised everyone by offering to clad the structure in wood panelling.

The Planning Committee can only judge and determine the plans that are placed before them. The cladding did mitigate some of the concerns about visual impact. The committee (wrongly in our view) then granted a temporary planning permission for 3 years.

It would be over a year before the permission was implemented with the developers ignoring several of the conditions including the needs of disabled users.

The containers haven’t been painted in a neutral colour.

Spark letter – can’t afford screening 2018

A quasi graffiti mortgage has been added to the Piccadilly frontage.

The York Council has been slow to take enforcement action on the planning contraventions. Not surprisingly other developers are crying “foul”. They say that special treatment arises out of the Council ownership conflict (over £50,000 of taxpayer’s money is currently at risk on the project). The remedy for that lies in enforcing the lease conditions for the land.

In the meantime, the media, social and otherwise, will once again no doubt be mobilised to support the change to the planning permission.

Hopefully the planning committee will develop a backbone and ensure that there is a level playing field for all who wish to trade in the City,

Spark set to ignore planning rules on Piccadilly “containergate”?

It seems that some of the units at the Sparkdevelopment” on Piccadilly may be occupied before the conditions of the Council’s planning permission have been met.

Over a year ago the company promised that the ugly storage containers would be screened.

Wooden screening was written in as a condition of the granting of the planning permission.

Several other conditions were imposed including the requirement to agree appropriate materials and advertising signage with the planning department.

Now “The Press” is reporting that graffiti, which recently appeared on the Piccadilly frontage of the containers, is actually the finished design.

Spark April 2018

A spokesperson for Sparks has apparently said that the obligatory screening will not now be provided.

This is a major issue for a site located in the City’s historic core.

Failure by the Council to enforce its own planning conditions might be seen as a precedent by unscrupulous developers keen to avoid, what they may consider to be, onerous conditions intended to protect York’s unique character.

The Council, of course, is the landlord for this development. It has not yet received any rent or rates for the containers which have been in place for over 7 months.

A keen interest is likely to be taken on whether any officials or Councillors accept hospitality from this developer at the promised opening “party” next week. They would be wise to distance themselves, and retain their impartiality, given that any failure to enforce planning conditions on a Council owned site, would inevitably lead to accusations of maladministration.

Sparks occupied Council Piccadilly site without permission

Containers being installed on 4th September

Tenancy agreement only signed on 9th November – 2 months after shipping containers arrived.

A response to a Freedom of Information request, recorded with the City of York Council on 15th November, has revealed irregularities with the lease for the site on which the containers were installed at the beginning of September.

It has emerged that the operator Sparks had, and still has, no lease for the site.

A “tenancy at will” was signed as recently as 9th November 2017.

In effect the company was able to park their assets on Council land for 2 months without permission or payment.

In November 2016 the Council’s Executive had agreed to lease 17/21 Piccadilly for the storage container village. The development was to start trading in May 2017 and the lease would expire in June 2020. The Council agreed to stump up £40,000 to cover the cost of providing water, electric and gas supply.

The Council was to have had a representative on the Sparks Board to look after its financial interests.

The Council expected to receive a basic rent plus a 30% share of “profits” (sic). The minutes of the meeting were clear that a lease (and hence rent payments) had to be in place to underwrite any Council investment.

A year later and the development has not been completed. No lease is in place. The Council has received no rent payments. No business rates have been paid on the site.

Risk warning Nov 2016

The containers have yet to be fitted out.

However, it has also emerged that the Council has already spent £31,500 (of the £40,000 budget) on facilitating the development.

Sparks has said that the earliest the container village could open is in March 2018. That would leave just 2 years for the Council to recover its investment.

The development has been described as an ugly eyesore made worse by its proximity to several sensitive historic buildings

Later this week a Councillor will be asked to extend the area to be covered by the lease to Sparks.  The area has most recently been used for car parking.

No additional payment is being sought from the developer for the extra land.

The shipping containers are coming – shock as “Containergate” shopping plan gets Council leadership backing

New proposal for Castle car park development

Sea containers to be parked on Piccadilly?

Shipping containers to be parked on Piccadilly

The York Council’s Executive has tonight approved plans to site shipping containers on Piccadilly.  They will form a shopping and business centre on the former Reynard’s garage site and could be there for 3 years.

Guildhall ward Labour and Green Councillors supported the proposal!

The project is subject to planning approval.

Normally residents would expect the Planning committee to throw out such an insensitive plan. They did insist that landscaping be improved around the  same site when permission was granted to demolish the garage building a year or so ago.

However, the committee’s recent decision to approve a poor quality visitor centre building, at a nearby Clifford’s Tower site, means that they cannot be relied on to protect this part of the City.

The Executive’s decision means that the short term plans to use the Piccadilly site as a car park for blue badge (disabled) drivers is unlikely to be progressed.

santa-in-container-in-york

New Castle car park development plan

New plans for the development of the Castle car park have been announced. They have been inspired by the emerging shipping container architectural movement as well as the English Heritage public convenience school of design

cliffords-tpwer-and-new-building

Prominent York residents and organisations have had their say on the plans.

  • English Heritage – The vertical columns ideally complement the similar design feature on our visitor centre. The Maersk elevations offer a complex counterpoint to the Norman buttresses on the Castle. All in all, something we would be proud of.
  • R Cooke (Author, Changing the Face of the City) – An impressive example of neo-Immingham brutalism.  Helicopter pads should remove need for direction signs. May require some refinement and relocation to Rotterdam
  • York Georgian Society – The containers are only acceptable if they have previously been used to transport molasses or slaves.
  • Walter Brierley (architect, deceased) – Just a minute I need to rotate a few times
  • Rachel Rascal (MP) – Hang on I’ll have to check. How big is the bandwagon of the opponents of the plan? How many wheels does the supporters bandwagon have? ……..  Oh dear this is a bit difficult.
  • C Steward (Con) – Ruddy liberals. mention mutual social enterprise and they’ll all over it.
  • N Ayre (Lib) – It is wonderfully intrusive. A little higher and it would block out that ghastly Cathedral building.