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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Sadiq Khan rejects London MSG Sphere, deeming its impact ‘Unacceptable’ for local residents

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Image:gov.uk

Sadiq Khan has rejected plans for a London version of the Las Vegas MSG Sphere because of the “unacceptable” impact it would have on local residents. The Mayor of London cited the amount of light pollution that would have blighted Stratford residents as one of the main reasons for blocking the plans as they were refused on Monday.

Despite the result being a relief for campaigners, it’s now up to Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, to have a final say on the plans. A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city.

“But as part of looking at the planning application for the MSG Sphere, the mayor has seen independent evidence that shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents.”

The Madison Square Garden Company, known for its world-famous venue of the same name in New York City, revealed its plans in 2018 to build “the UK’s largest concert arena”, known as the MSG Sphere, near to Stratford station. The Sphere would have had a 21,500-capacity and is intended to host concerts, sports events and shows as well as having a nightclub, a lounge for members only and restaurants.

However local residents along with councillors and Labour MP for West Ham, Lyn Brown, had long opposed the plans as they argued light pollution from the Sphere’s advertising screens would keep people up at night. Some residents told the LDRS in December 2022 that they would move out of their homes if the Sphere, dubbed a “gigantic glowing orb”, was built right outside their bedroom windows.

Local resident Sam Ellis previously told the LDRS: “[Blackout blinds] are not sufficient. It’s noise, it’s going to be a club, it’s a [21,500] capacity with the best sound. That’s really not going to cut it and I don’t want a giant advertising globe right in front of my flat. I oppose it and my partner does as well. We rent this space so if it were to happen we would move, because our balcony completely overlooks that space.”

Green councillor Nate Higgins for Stratford Olympic Park ward, which is where the Sphere is planned to be built, said at the time: “There was outrage at the possibility of blackout blinds being necessary to stop light pollution from the advertising screens on the outside of the Sphere.”

Despite such controversy, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) gave the Sphere the green light during a planning meeting in March 2022. Cllr Higgins said he was “absolutely delighted” following today’s decision.

Cllr Higgins said: “London’s cultural venues are incredibly important, but this application was always completely inappropriate for the site. The 25-year advertising consent the applicants demanded show they were not interested in contributing to our capital’s cultural scene, only bombarding the residents of Stratford with endless advertising.”

A spokesperson for Sphere Entertainment said: “While we are disappointed in London’s decision, there are many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities. We will concentrate on those.”

Mayor of Newham Rokshana Fiaz

The mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, said: “From negative health impacts, transport pressures and inaccessibility for Blue Badge holders, the MSG Sphere is a detrimental scheme. Today is a monumental victory for the public interest, for democratic accountability and for all Newham residents as well.”

The LLDC has been approached for comment.

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