COUNCILLORS are being urged to allow York:Spark to go back on its original planning agreement to clad its shipping containers in timber.

The recommendation by City of York Council officials for the new business start-up and social space in Piccadilly will delight supporters, who claim it has a 'wonderful, post industrial style perfectly suited to its urban 'brownfield' site,' and is undeserving of the hostility it has met from some parties.

But it has sparked fury from critics, with former council leader Steve Galloway who said in his blog: "It was the developers themselves that offered to clad the outside of the containers on the Piccadilly frontage to make them less intrusive. It is inconceivable that they did not understand the costs of such an exercise and include it in their business plans."

A report to next week's planning committee meeting by development management officer Jonathan Kenyon says that when the scheme received planning permission, it was proposed to have timber cladding wrapped around the containers at ground floor level and extending to provide 1.1 m high balustrading at first floor level.

It says Spark was now applying to vary the approved plans to allow the site to retain its current appearance, without the timber cladding. "The applicant's case in the application refers to economic viability, although there are no detailed costs," it says.

"There have been nine comments in support of the application and nine in objection."

It says supporters say the development has 'brought life' to this part of Piccadilly, and 'looks wonderful; post industrial style perfectly suited to its urban 'brownfield' site,' and say Spark is 'one of the best and most innovative developments in the city centre for years...established on a shoe string budget and given so many people (mostly young start-ups) a chance for a future in their own businesses."

Supporters claim Spark are not experienced commercial developers and hence it is most likely that management failures that led to this change requirement would have been borne of inexperience.

"As such it is undeserving of the hostility that it has met from some parties which is completely out of proportion to the actual planning issues at stake."

But it says opponents claim the unlawful artwork and lettering on the containers is 'completely unacceptable in this conservation area, 'alien and a gross intrusion on the street scene...graffiti."

They claim one of the reasons why Spark was first permitted was due to the proposed timber cladding, which was specifically intended to ameliorate the inappropriate visual impact of the old shipping containers, and asked: "Would Members have approved the scheme initially if it were presented in its current iteration?"

The report, recommending approval, says the proposals 'have been identified as causing less than substantial harm to the character and appearance of designated heritage assets, being the Conservation Area and the setting of the grade II listed Red Lion public house.'

It says 'the public benefits outweigh the identified harm due to the economic and social benefits brought about by enabling this distinctive development which makes a positive contribution to the vitality and viability of this area and the overall city centre.'