- Meeting of Decision Session - Executive Member for Finance and Major Projects, Friday, 14 February 2020 1.30 pm (Item 3.)
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It was reported that there had been eight registrations to speak at the meeting under the Council’s Public Participation Scheme. All eight spoke on Agenda Item 4, ‘the proposal to offer a conditional 2 year lease extension to Spark:York for 17-21 Piccadilly’.
Cllr Fitzpatrick, Ward Member for Guildhall, spoke regarding how city living was about vibrancy. She was supportive of the concept of this scheme and pleased that the space was being used rather than left empty. However, nearby residents had reported noise levels that had been intolerable at times and had adversely affected them. Attempts to notify residents regarding live music or televised events had not been good enough.
MrJames Flinders, Chair of the Walmgate Community Association and local resident, spoke in support of the positive aspects that Spark:York had offered. They welcomed the opportunities for new businesses able to take advantage of short term lease arrangements. He highlighted the frustration of local residents in relation to noise levels in the evening and considered that reducing the time for the sale of alcohol by half an hour from the current operating hours, would help ameliorate this concern; along with compliance with previous planning permission regarding cladding the units, controlling noise nuisance and better communication with residents in notifying them prior to key events.
Mr Franz Wallmann, local resident, considered that the use of shipping containers was an unsuitable construction and that this was effectively an open air venue. Licensed premises are required to keep windows and doors closed to prevent noise nuisance, whereas Spark: York doesn’t have windows. It was nearby residents that had to close their doors and windows. Even then, noise from Spark:York could still be heard. Other nearby, long established businesses were not offered the same level of leniency as Spark: York. The Council should protect its residents from this noise nuisance.
Mr Jody Toner, owner of Toner & Co hair salon spoke about how as a stylist it had not been possible to secure a lease in York with the costs involved in long term leases and business rates. The flexibility and short term one year lease that Spark:York had offered had enabled him to establish his business in a vibrant location, near a car park, until he had developed his business and was able to then move on to a more permanent fixture at Gillygate. He hoped that further businesses would continue to have the same opportunity that he had been given.
Ms Louise Warnes, considered that she lived in the closest proximity to the Spark:York location with her five year old son and had found the management team at Spark:York- Tom and Sam to be very communicative and accommodating. On the rare occasion that it had been too noisy, she had phoned and informed them and noticed an immediate reduction to noise. She considered Spark:York to be a valuable community asset and regularly attended events hosted there with friends.
Ms Gwen Swinburn spoke in objection to the continuation of the Spark:York lease. She considered that it was located at a prime site and had enjoyed a three year rent free period. That they should be paying a minimum £150K per annum rental, particularly in view of the Property Portfolio income being down by approx. £250K. She considered that the Council was breaching its duties in relation to the public purse and equalities and were likely exposing itself to fines. She requested that this item be deferred until there had been an option analysis for the site and calculations proposed for rent using proper valuations and rationale for discounts offered.
Two further local residents who wished to remain anonymous made the following point, which included:
The Spark:York vision had been for smart, trendy, coffee culture, restaurants and community space. He considered the reality to be that it had now become a ‘raucous watering hole’. The planning application in 2017 had assessed risk and noted potential noise and privacy issues. In not penalising Spark:York in relation to noise, the Council was complicit in this. Spark:York were being rewarded at the expense of resident’s wellbeing. He urged the Council not to extend their lease, or if they do, to extend it for six months and then be charge them the going rate thereafter.
The second local resident raised concerns regarding the noise nuisance and how this had affected his two teenage sons who were sleep deprived whilst studying for exams. He urged the Executive Member not to extend this lease and to instead use the money to benefit the York area generally.