Popular street food venue Spark:York is set to lose its home as it is to be earmarked as a site for affordable housing.
The Piccadilly venture created out of shipping containers was originally given permission by City of York Council to remain in place for three years until 2020, with a future extension granted until April 2022.
The social enterprise has drawn praise for bringing a dash of colour to an unloved part of the city, providing space for start-ups, community events and even an urban farm, but it’s also annoyed some neighbours, who have complained about noise later at night.
Guildhall ward councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick said she had been “inundated with views for and against” Spark, but said that ultimately it was in the wrong location.
Now a report set to go before the council’s executive next week says that the “hugely successful” Spark site, formerly home to Reynard’s Garage, should be sold by the council for affordable housing.
Councillors will be asked to further extend Spark’s lease for two years and seven months from April 1, but this will be subject to a landlord break option which could see Spark have to leave by November 2023.
In return for the extension, Spark has agreed to up the rent it pays to the council to £25,000 or £13,333 plus 30 per cent of the profits, whichever is greater.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said the council’s “indecision” over the site had created “uncertainty” for neighbours and Spark’s directors.
She added: “As to the extension of the lease, I think the neighbours need to be listened to more, especially regarding noise. When it’s possible to take part in a quiz at Spark by remaining inside your own home, with the windows shut – then you know it’s just too close.”
Neighbours didn’t expect total peace and quiet living in the city centre and had tried to work with Spark, Cllr Fitzpatrick said.
“Spark is quite simply, a very popular concept that I have enjoyed myself,” she added. “But unlike under the railway arches in Brixton or an old industrial warehouse in any other city, this is simply in the wrong location in York.”
The site is part of the Castle Gateway project and the council has a longstanding commitment to develop it.
Spark directors Sam Leach and Tom McKenzie said: “We have always been consistent in our position of wanting to continue operating in York as long as people feel that Spark is relevant and needed in our city.
“The main focus for us is to ensure a positive environment for our traders and the start-up businesses, community groups and many people that benefit from the venue every day.
“This offer from the City of York Council clearly serves them well in protecting their future options for the sale and permanent development of the site and we hope that they are working to guarantee that whatever comes next will be of real benefit to the people of York.”