Spark: York relocation risk in 2023


Spark's future remains in the balance as the council urges the importance of affordable housing

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By James Clay

City of York Council has recently approved planning permission for Spark:York to remain in its current location until 2025 but a separate lease clause could cut this short. From November 2023, if a housing developer is ready to begin work on the site then Spark:York will have to relocate to a different area within the city.

Since 2017, Spark:York has been a popular street food vender giving a platform to 17 different start-up businesses in the city. Many tourists, students and residents alike have been impressed by the food that is served there. The current Piccadilly location has been a tourist and resident hotspot due to its vibrant atmosphere and regular community events.

Despite its success as a business, Spark:York has faced criticism from local residents who have complained about the noise levels late at night. One local claimed to be able to take part in the pub quizzes in their own home with the windows shut due to how loud it is.

In recognition of noise complaints, the directors of Spark:York, Sam Leach and Tom McKenzie have agreed to stop music from being played after 10pm from Sunday until Thursday. For the contract extension, the owners have also agreed to increase the rent to £25,000 or £13,333 and 30 percent of its profits, whichever figure is higher.

On April 8 2022, the Council agreed to the recommendations of a report that stated that as an interim site, the Piccadilly location should remain as the venue of Spark:York but it also recognised that in the long term, Spark:York will have to relocate. Due to the popularity of Spark:York, the council received 50 letters in support of the report compared to six in opposition.

It has always been the view of the City of York Council Executive that the current location will eventually be used as a housing development site. Councillors will eventually grant planning permission for a number of properties on the site with a particular focus on affordable and social rent but also with some shared ownership homes as well.

Various other sites have been suggested as long term replacements so York:Spark can keep providing the economic and community-based benefits to the city. For example, nearer the city centre or the National Railway Museum have been suggested along with the Barbican Site which has been left empty for over 15 years.

Commenting, 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.”

Speaking in opposition to the current location of Spark:York, Guildhall ward councillor, Fiona Fitzpatrick said, “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.”