Spark, York: Council dismisses 'rumour' food court in shipping containers is paying below market rent

The City of York Council’s finance executive has dismissed “rumours” that Spark:York is not paying market value rent.

Spark:York, the food court in upcycled shipping containers at 17-21 Piccadilly, has been the subject of complaints from opposition councillors. Conservative group leader Coun Chris Steward asked for an executive decision to extend Spark:York’s lease to be reviewed on Monday (Dec 4).

He said Spark:York pays “way below market rent” and “serious consideration should be given to other uses for the site, including a private sale”.

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He added: “The lack of a real revenue or tangible capital receipt option should not be ignored.”


The council’s Labour administration wants to build affordable housing on the land but has delayed doing so until 2026, allowing Spark:York to stay there until then.

Finance and major projects executive Coun Katie Lomas said: “There’s been some wild assertions that Spark isn’t paying the market value rent, which we can confirm is not the case. I don’t know where that rumour has come from but it is not the case.”

Coun Mark Warters, an independent, said: “It is totally, utterly unacceptable to have even been considering an extension to the lease. It’s certainly held up development progress” and it should be “in the hands of private developers.”

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However, deputy leader, economy and transport executive Coun Pete Kilbane said: “We don’t think it’s holding up development on the site because there’s been little interest market-wise. But our ambition is to deliver housing the people of York can afford because our residents can’t afford to live in our town and as a council and as landowners we’re in a position to try and do something about that, which we will do.”

Spark:York opened in the city in May 2018.

After deciding to extend its lease for two years until 2026, Coun Lomas said: “We ultimately want to develop the site where they are, but in the current climate we have opted to extend the lease for Spark rather than have a site empty until we are able to fully take the opportunity to develop it rather than have that empty site causing problems itself.”

Coun Lomas also said that there are “challenges getting funding together for development” and that “until things settle economically” they cannot commit to building on the site.

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