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.

Spark- FOI reveals email exchanges on planning, cladding and loans

The York Council has shed some light on what they told the Spark developers in the spring of this year.

Copies of Email exchanges have now been published on the “What do they know” web site. Click for details

As early as last April, York council officials knew that the developer was intending not to provide cladding on the external face of the containers. This would have breached planning conditions.

Spark was advised that they had to apply for a variation to the planning permission.

This they subsequently did but the application was refused.

Spark have since said that they will appeal against the refusal.

It also appears that the Council was aware that Spark were borrowing significant sums of money to fund the £500,000 set up costs for the development. It is unclear from the exchange whether the Council’s position as the land owner and preferential creditor was, and remains, fully indemnified. 

At a meeting held in April, Spark were seeking an extension to the “June 2020 end date” for their lease. They were told that this was not possible, although one official hinted “if the venture is well supported and doing well then they (sic) maybe opportunities”.

Another Spark tenant (“Once across the Garden”) announced this week that they are moving from Spark.

NB. Spark started trading in May 2017 having, by then, been on site for over 6 months.

 

 

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 

Major York brownfield site gets development boost

City of York Council welcomes a decision by the Secretary of State to set new conditions which will help unlock the former British Sugar site and other unused brownfield sites in the city.

Taking into account York’s emerging Local Plan and the Upper and Nether Poppleton Neighbourhood Plan, the Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government has said that allocating 20% affordable housing to the site off Boroughbridge Road is reasonable.

Because of the scale of the development, the Minister has recognised that delivering that percentage would not be viable in the initial phases of development. So the recommendation proposes that a minimum 3% provision would be made with additional affordable housing provided based on reassessment evidence for each phase.

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.

Confusion over planning application for Lincoln Court modernisation

Lincoln Court

In a report to a meeting taking place next week, officials are claiming that a planning application for the upgrade of the Lincoln Court independent living home on Ascot Way, “has been submitted”.

This will come as news to the residents living in the building who are eagerly awaiting details of the final design for the modernised site and the construction timetable.

There is no such application displayed on the Councils “planning portal

So far only the demolition of the adjacent Windsor House building and subsequent construction of a centre for disabled children has reached the planning application stage. That application was submitted on 29th June.

It is a matter of some concern as residents will want to see an integrated timetable for both developments which ensures that work on the whole of the site is completed quickly.

They will also want to see the Newbury Avenue development completed before work starts on Ascot Way.

Both developments will put considerable pressure on parts of Kingsway West which offers the only access route into the area.

Kingsway West is a cul de sac and already suffers from congestion caused by poor parking provision on the area near the Ascot Way junction.

 

 

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

 Below are the latest planning applications received by the York Council for the Westfield ward.

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference

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24 Kingsway West York YO24 4QA

Erection of single storey extension extending 3.375 metres beyond the rear wall of the original house, with a height to the eaves of 2.260 metres and a total height of 3.470 metres.

Ref. No: 18/01604/LHE 

——-

84 Gale Lane York YO24 3AA

Erection of summer house (retrospective)

Ref. No: 17/03010/FUL 

——

Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site.  http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received

Carlton Tavern saved

Planning appeal decision goes against developers

A developer who wanted to demolish the Carlton Tavern to make way for a care home has lost his appeal against a local planning decision.

An independent inspector has ruled that the building has historic interest and the proposal would damage protected trees.

The inspector also refused to award costs against the Council

t developers

Residents call for changes to Lowfields plans

Site has been unused since 2007

The residents group opposing plans to build on the Lowfields sports pitches have warned Planning Committee Councillors that they should not take part in Thursday’s debate on the plans, if they have previously expressed a view on the development.

The Council is the landowner, developer and planning authority for the application. Any Councillor who had  previously been present at any discussions about the future of the land, and the scale of any development, could be considered to have “pre-judged” the application.

Their impartiality would be in question, and could lead to any recommendation being invalidated.

The group say that any decision should be referred for consideration by an independent inspector.

Meanwhile, the residents group have lobbied Councillors setting out the reasons why they believe only the brownfield side of the site should be built on (see below).

The Planning Committee meeting takes place on Thursday 16th August starting at 4:30pm. It will be “web cast” (click to view)