Spark:York CAN stay for two more years – with a warning that ‘we will not tolerate more breaches’

The Bohemian Bar at Spark:York. Photograph: sparkyork.org

Spark:York will stay in the city for another two years – as long as cladding is installed.

And the council says it will put “more muscular” measures in place to act on noise complaints – after some residents said music from the site was “intolerable”.

But one neighbour – who said she lives closest to the venue – praised Spark’s directors for being approachable and said neither she nor her five-year-old son had lost sleep over noise from it.


Hairdresser Jody Toner told councillors Spark had “enabled his aspirations to become reality” after he launched his own salon at the site – and has now moved into a permanent premises on Gillygate.

Neighbour Franz Wallmann told the meeting:

  • I enjoy living here, but was looking forward to when [the lease] ended because of noise issues.

    There’s no soundproofing and no windows and doors that can be shut. It’s basically an open air venue put in the middle of a residential area.

‘Happy to help’

Another neighbour compared the site to “a raucous watering hole” and said she felt “less valued than a Vangarde newt”.

But Louise Warnes, who said her home overlooks Spark, told the meeting she speaks to directors Sam Leach and Tom McKenzie regularly and they have “always been happy to help”.


She said: “Spark is never loud enough that we can’t sleep, it never keeps us awake.

“I think if you choose to live in the city centre you have to accept a certain amount of noise.

“If we ever have an issue it’s acted on immediately. They have only ever been happy to help and I hope it gets its lease extension.”

Resolved: That the following was confirmed by the Executive Member for Finance and Performance:

(i) To offer Spark York a new lease for the use of 17-21 Piccadilly from 1st July 2020 until 31stMarch 2022 (at basic rent of £13,333 per annum payable monthly in advance rather than annually in arrears, plus an additional rent equal to 30% of Spark’s annual profit payable at the end of each year) to continue to operate a shipping container development for start-ups and street food,

(ii) That the new lease will require Spark: York will to pay a Bond/Deposit sum of £5,000 to the council towards securing compliance with the tenant’s obligations in the new lease (such as payment of rent)

(iii) That the new lease will require a director of Spark: York to act as guarantor for the performance by Spark:York of the tenant’s obligations in the new lease

(iv) That the new lease will contain a clause setting out the council’s right to terminate the lease should Spark/the tenant breach their obligations in the lease (including breaching planning laws)

(v) That the new lease will specifically preclude Spark: York from running amplified live music or DJ sessions in the evening

(vi) That the new lease will only be granted if and when:
(a) Spark:York are in full compliance with all of the conditions to the site’s existing planning permission, cladding the units and controlling noise
(b) Spark: York obtain an extension from the LPA of the validity period of the existing planning permission from 1st July 2020 to 31st March
(c) Spark: York have settled all existing debts to the council
(d) A communication plan is in place which would be a two way communication agreement with Spark:York and local residents.
(e) That authority be delegated to the Assistant Director of Regeneration and Asset Management in consultation with the Executive Member for Finance and Performance to investigate the viability of reducing the time for the sale of alcohol by half an hour from the current operating hours. Current hours are in accordance with statutory permitted.

Reason: To allow the continued use of 17-21 Piccadilly to support SME businesses and create footfall and economic activity in advance of the long term redevelopment of the Caste Gateway scheme.

Source: City of York Council

And Mr Toner said the “flexibility and affordability” of Spark enabled him to start his own business – and that they offered a one-year lease where units in the city centre were on a three or five-year lease.

He said: “The space was vibrant. the location was absolutely perfect. It’s all thanks to Spark that I have been able to make it a success.”

‘More muscular lease’

Tracey Carter, the council’s assistant director for regeneration, said the new lease would be “more muscular” – and if the council investigated a noise complaint from residents breached the guidelines, the lease could be terminated.

Cllr Nigel Ayre said senior councillors have spent a long time discussing the idea of extending the lease. He said:

  • I was initially very supportive of the vision. It’s an area of the city we have really struggled with.

    It hasn’t gone 100 per cent how we wanted it to. Has it been positive for the city? In my view, yes.

    I fully take on board from residents that what has happened so far has not been acceptable.

    I hope this is the last time we have a negative conversation about Spark, there’s a huge amount of positivity that has come from this. We as executive will not tolerate breaches as it goes forward.

Cllr Ayre asked that the lease also require Spark to better communicate with residents and for council officers to look at reducing the hours when alcohol can be served on site.