30% chance of winning a planning appeal in York

Latest figures published by the York Council suggest that anyone who has a planning application rejected by the local authority has a 30% chance of having the decision reversed on appeal. Appeals are considered by independent inspectors.

The figures reveal that inspectors rejected two appeals against decisions that the planing committee had made and which were in conflict with the recommendations of local planning officers.

One of the these concerned the controversial Spark Container Village who tried to avoid providing cladding on the public frontage of the shipping containers.

Some 18 months after the containers were occupied, the cladding has still not been provided. With the Council still not having advertised the Piccadilly site for sale, there is growing concern that the situation will drift on.

The planning permission for the containers does expire in June 2020 so the matter must come to a head within the next few months.

More changes at Spark

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.

No profits for Spark?

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.

Spark

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!

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.

York Councils empty property list revealed

Freedom of Information response confirms that buyer has pulled out of deal to buy 29 Castlegate
List of long term empty properties in York owned by the Council

The York Council has confirmed that it owns 12 substantial properties in the City which have been empty for over 6 months.

Two of the properties, Ashbank and the Guildhall, have been unused for over 6 YEARS.  

Ashbank was reported as being sold for £1.3 million a year ago. The Council now just says it is “sold subject to contract”.

The new Executive is expected to review the affordability of a £20 million scheme at the Guildhall which would see the creation of a “business club” there. If the project goes ahead, work will start in the autumn with reoccupation expected in 2021.

The estimated total value of the assets is put at between £30/40 million.

Little attempt has been made to secure short term lets for the properties which include prime sites like 29 Castlegate, the former youth advisory HQ.

Most of the properties have been exempt from paying business rates. Had they been occupied then Council taxpayers would have benefited from an additional £200,000 a year in income.

To this would be added rental income of around £400,000 a year or a substantial capital receipt.

The Castlegate property was to have been purchased by the York Conservation Trust with the York Civic Trust hoping to subsequently  lease the building as part of its expansion plans for the adjacent Fairfax House.

The agreed purchase price of £430,000 was criticised at the time as being “too low” for a building in such a prime site.

29 Castlegate

Now the Council says that it was notified on 21st May that the Conservation Trust would not be purchasing the building. However, the York Civic Trust had been told the same at their AGM last year. The Council say that they are now “reviewing” the position.

No public reports have been made on asset utilisation issues at the York Council this year.

The Council is spending around £80,000 a year on maintaining and securing the properties.

Only one of the properties has a temporary occupant (20 Piccadilly)

The table does not include underused assets like 19/21 Piccadilly (Spark) or land with a development potential. The latter includes land purchased in 2008 to accommodate an extension to Acomb Explore Library and which has been unused ever since.

19/21 Piccadilly

The Council says that it has only one Council house, at Glen Lodge, which has been empty for longer than 6 months.

The Council Housing department has been criticised in the past for allowing some of its estate garages to remain empty for extended periods of time.

The revelations have led to calls for a more proactive approach by the Council in the use of its assets. The new Council leadership has been advised to reintroduce a 6 monthly public report on empty property issues.

It may be that the time has come for the York Council to seek outside help in managing its huge commercial building portfolio

Planning appeal decision goes against Spark container village

A Planning Inspector has rejected 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 use.

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.

The shipping containers arrived in September 2017

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.

Spark container village – payments to Council revealed

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the York Council has revealed that it has received £13,333 in rent from the Spark container village on Piccadilly since they first arrived in September 2017.
Spark April 2018

This amounts to little more than £700 a month since the organisation took over the prime site.

No payments have been received by the Council from the “profit sharing” scheme agreed as part of the deal to allow shipping containers to be installed on the site. The council says it is still awaiting receipt of accounts for last year. The last accounts filed by Spark were for the year ending March 2018.

£19,856 is owed by Spark and its tenants for Business Rates. The Council says that it is taking recovery action.

The original Spark business pitch to the Council talked about a £71,000 profit each year. Part of this was to be used to repay the Council’s initial investment (which cost over £40,000) in new utility infrastructure,

The container village has been controversial from the start with long delays in meeting some planning conditions. An instruction to replace graffiti style street art with cladding on the Piccadilly frontage is still outstanding (click for background)

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.

Many of the individual units have been empty over recent months.

Although warmer weather may give the containers a temporary boost in customer numbers, it is surely long overdue for the Council to test the market by advertising the site for permanent redevelopment.

York Council response to Freedom of Information request 29th April 2019

Spark appeals against planning decision

Spark April 2018

It seems that the Spark organisation has submitted a last-minute appeal against the Council’s decision not to allow them to keep the Street Art/Graffiti on their Piccadilly frontage. They had hoped that the Council would not enforce the planning condition which requires them to install wood cladding on the outside of the shipping containers.

In August they lost their planning application to revise the conditions governing their use of the site.

Any appeal could take months to resolve, so it may now be down to the Council, as the landlord, to act to remedy the defect. The Council will be expecting a major payment from the business over the next few weeks.

The Spark lease runs out in June 2020.

Deadline day approaching for Spark container village

Rates, rent and profit share payments due in the next few days.

Spark April 2018

The valuation office has completed its assessment of the rateable value of the Spark container village on Piccadilly.

Figures published on their web site suggest a total valuation of £138,730.

In the normal course of events this would bring around £65,000 into the City’s coffers helping to offset the additional costs of street cleaning, refuse collection, policing etc. associated with developments of this sort.

Increases in rateable value these days bring an immediate boost for Council finances under rate retention schemes (The Council’s rate support grant has consequently been reduced to zero this year).

But will there be a boost in this case?

Valuations were apparently requested on a per container basis. This means that none of the 25 units has a rateable value of more than £12,000.

Rating list

Government regulations on rate relief for small businesses say “You will not pay business rates on a property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less”.

So, unless an occupier has a second business property elsewhere, then they may not pay any rates at all.

Empty properties are exempt from Business Rates for 3 months.

Some of the alcohol selling units on the site are said to be highly profitable. No doubt other traders operating nearby will question whether this is fair competition.

York Council officials are staying tight lipped about whether they anticipated this development.

The original Spark business pitch to the Council talked about a £71,000 profit each year. Part of this was to be used to repay the Council’s initial investment in new utility infrastructure. The first payment toward paying off this debt is due in a little over 6 weeks’ time, together with the Council’s share of what Spark claim is a “£1.5 million profit”

NB In August 2018 the Council refused a planning application from Spark to omit the wooden cladding for the containers which they had suggested as part of the original application.

Spark is currently closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Spark list only 4 retailers who currently operate from the containers. There are also 7 food and drink outlets

Spark – Rates bill arriving

Looks like the Valuation Office has started to issue decisions on the rateable value of units at Spark on Piccadilly.

Units 1 and 2 are now listed as having a rateable value of £12,750 for their 30 sq. mtr ground floor sales area. The price per sq. mtr applied by the VO is £430 which is typical for the area.

The actual business rates payable would be around £6000, with a discount for small businesses.

It appears that valuations are being undertaken per container, so it is unclear precisely how much the Council will receive in total.

The rates are payable with effect from May 2018, so it appears that taxpayers will at last start to see some benefit from their investment.

Separately, Spark have now applied for planning permission to install the canvass roof on their enterprise. This has actually been in place for about 2 months already.

There is still no sign of the promised cladding to the Piccadilly frontage. This was a condition of the planning consent and has been outstanding for over 6 months now.