Spark:York has lost its planning appeal and must now install cladding across the site.

The directors have accepted the decision and say they look forward to “reinventing” the venue for its final year.

The innovative box park, which is home to a range of start-ups and community organisations, is made up of refurbished shipping containers.


Under the original plans, the metal containers were meant to have timber cladding on the outside. But it was never fitted.

Instead Spark brought in artists to decorate the shipping containers with bright artwork.

Directors asked the council to lift the cladding condition, but the committee voted against. So they took the decision to appeal.

And now a planning inspector has rejected that appeal, saying “a perfectly acceptable scheme has been approved, which would be far more appropriate in the Conservation Area”.

Far more appropriate

They went for artwork rather than cladding
In his judgement planning inspector Paul Cooper said: “The timber cladding that was to be installed would have screened the harsher, more industrial elements of the development, whilst still retaining the modern, contemporary ethos of the site.”

One of the Spark:York directors Sam Leach told YorkMix that they accepted the decision of the inspector and would now go ahead with the cladding.

He said:

  • We pursued the appeal because we had local and national support, with people commenting positively on the artwork that was installed.

    The artwork has brought a much-needed splash of colour to Piccadilly.

    But we believe a correct cladding solution will bring an exciting new experience for the project.

Finances a consideration

Giving a welcome for another year
In their appeal, Spark told the inspector that the cost of the cladding “would be prohibitive and would put the entire project at risk”.

He added: “However, I fail to see how this would not have been identified at the outset, as it appears that considerable discussion took place at the pre-application stage.”

Sam said finances were a consideration.

  • It was a challenge to get the project up and running.

    Financially, we made the decision that the artwork was the more affordable option.

    But we thought, in the short period Spark is on Piccadilly, that actually we wanted it to be colourful, we wanted it to feel vibrant – and to look different, to entice people down that street.

    There’s always financial ramifications to effectively short-term community projects. We don’t have shareholders, we have to deliver things over a two or three-year cycle.

    So where possible, we tried to avoid spending money where we didn’t have to, speaking honestly.

The artwork “was a professional, interesting, different look that would encourage people to visit the project.

“I don’t regret that at all. I think it’s been a positive for the street. But now we do look forward, and have the opportunity to reinvent it for the time it’s here.”

Spark is due to leave the site on 30 June 2020.

Two weeks

Getting a new look
Sam says they had been budgeting for the possibility of cladding for some months.

Although it would cost thousands of pounds, they had the money to do it, and would now be procuring designs in consultation with council planners.

They have a little over two weeks. Mike Slater, assistant director for planning and public protection at City of York Council, said:

  • We have been in contact with Spark:York following the recent appeal decision and they have indicated that they will install the cladding, as it was shown on the approved plans.

    This has been followed up with a letter asking them to confirm the timescales for installing the cladding by 19 July.

Sam is aware that Spark has caused controversy, with some people loving it, and others being vocal in their opposition.


He said: “We’re very comfortable that some people will like it and get it and want to support it, and some people won’t.

“We’re a bit of a microcosm of York in a way. York is having discussions daily about how it’s going to provide housing, how it will ensure the transport system – all these major issues.

“I feel an element of pride that we’ve been involved in those discussions. Ultimately that’s why people live and work here, because they love the city and they want the best for it.”