The shipping container village on Piccadilly may look a little different this winter. Spark has applied for planning permission to install plastic sheeting to close the gap between the canvass roof and the side of the development.
No sign yet of the cladding being installed. Nor has the council confirmed that they have received their share of the “profits” on the enterprise from last year.
The Council has confirmed that it has not received any payments from the Spark container village as part of the “profit sharing” arrangements agreed nearly three years ago.
The payments were expected to help offset the £40,000 of taxpayers money spent in providing electricity and other services to the site.
The first payment was due in April
The company also haven’t yet provided the cladding required by a planning condition dating back nearly 2 years. The Councils planning department is coming under increasing pressure to take enforcement action.
The Spark owners were recently quoted in the local newspaper as wanting to continue to use the site when their current lease expires in June!
A Planning Inspector hasrejected an appeal regarding the Spark container village on Piccadilly.
The owners of the units were hoping to avoid installing wooden cladding on the outside of the shipping containers as was required by the original planning consent granted in May 2017.
In August 2018 the Councils planning committee refused to remove the requirement for the containers to be clad in timber panelling. They concluded that the industrial style containers had an adverse impact on the appearance of the Central Conservation Area.
Spark appealed against this decision.
The appellants claimed that “that the financial implications
of the approved installation would be prohibitive and would put the entire
project at risk”.
However, the Inspector said that the costs of the cladding
would have been known from the start.
The Inspector concluded “I find that no public benefits have been demonstrated that would outweigh the harm and there is no clear and convincing justification for the variation of the condition”.
Despite much prevarication, the controversial Spark project
now seems to have reached the end of the road. Their lease expires next July
anyway, and the Council will be eager to market the site for a more sustainable
The site is likely to be worth over a million pounds – money that the Council desperately needs to sustain the rest of its capital investment programme. The most viable use would be for a visitor attraction on the ground floor with either flats, offices or a hotel above.
The Council will also be expected to reveal how much their share of the “profits” on the development have actually been received.
The profit share arrangement was a key consideration when
the Councils Executive agreed to release the site at their meeting in November 2016.
The taxpayers investment of over £40,000 in infrastructure was to have been
repaid from these “profits”.
The shipping containers arrived on site in September 2017.
They were widely regarded as “ugly” with street art graffiti on the Piccadilly
frontage making the appearance even worse. The containers blight the Piccadilly
area which is otherwise seeing signs of regeneration. Three new developments
are currently underway on the opposite side of the road and a “Castle Gateway”
masterplan is in the process of being approved.
We think that Spark have been playing the Council along for many months.
The issue will be a major test of the effectiveness of the newly elected York Council. They must seek to quickly enforce the planning conditions on the site, while also recovering any outstanding debts.
They would also be wise to start marketing the site for future development.
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 uglyeyesoremade 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 operators of the proposed shipping container village on Piccadilly have now confirmed that there will be a delay in completing the project.
As we reported earlier in the week, there is still a substantial amount of work to be finished on the site.
The developers say it will now be “early Spring” before the units are occupied. The economics of the project rely heavily on booze and street food outlets.
It is unclear when the Council – which is funding some of the upfront costs – will begin to recover their investment.
The Council is spending £40,000 connecting utility services to the site.
When approving the use of the site 12 months ago, the Council said it expected to recover its investment from rent payments. Whether they will now be able to achieve that before the initial lease runs out in 2019 remains to be seen.
Sadly, the site is now even more of an eyesore than it used to be.
Council planning officers are recommending that the controversial plan to erect a boozy shipping container village on Piccadilly be approved.
The paper for the planning committee reveals that concerns about impact on the Conservation area and the proximity of the food and drink dominated plan to existing residential properties may be discounted.
The proposed approval of the scheme reflects badly on the competency of the planning system in the City. We already seen an ugly visitor centre approved for a site near Clifford’s Tower while Councillors earlier in the year gave the OK to siting an arts barge on the Ouse. The barge also will have alcohol at the heart of its customer offer.
If the shipping container plan is approved it is unlikely that we will see the permanent development of what is a key site in the City until late in 2020 at the earliest. The Council – which owns the site – has never satisfactorily explained why – since the end of the recession – they have not been marketing the location for permanent development .
Ironically it seems that the Shambles market will be one of the main casualties if the project does get the go ahead.
We feel very sorry for those residents living in properties to the rear of the site.
Residents living in flats overlooking the proposed shipping container development on Piccadilly have not been consulted on the plans by either the Council or local Ward Councillors it has emerged this morning.
Over 200 people live near or adjacent to the Reynard’s garage site and one occupier has told us that the first they knew of the proposals was an article in the local newspaper.
At yesterdays meeting the three Councillors, who are supposed to represent the interests of the Guildhall community, all spoke in favour of the container village.
It appears though that they failed to consult local taxpayers before making up their minds.
Part of the scheme involves the provision of “ a large event space and seating area on most of the site + a decking stage performance area“. This has prompted fears about noise in an area which has had its fair share of afternoon and night time disturbance over recent years.
Quite how the developers will square their ambitions with licensing and planning restrictions remains to be seen.
The Council was also criticised for not publicly inviting other organisations and businesses to pitch for use of the site.
One resident has said that they would have been happy to lease a car parking space at the location – suggesting that the Council have missed at least one revenue raising option (Connecting mains services to the container village will cost taxpayers £40,000).
Councillors have been challenged to justify their claims that “there is a lack of space for street food vendors and meeting space in the City“. It has been pointed out that many guildhalls are underused, several retail units are unoccupied and the recently established Shambles cafe area is lightly used. Several office and commercial blocks in the Piccadilly area are empty and have the benefit of existing mains services.
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.
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
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.