Controversial London concert arena MSG Sphere is nearing planning approval
The proposed 21,500-capacity sphere has faced significant local opposition to its massive orb shape and LED illuminated exterior
Plans to build the UK’s largest concert arena in East Londn have moved one step closer to becoming a reality, despite significant opposition from local groups and institutions.
After a meeting by members of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) on Tuesday (January 24), which approved the plans subject to a five year review – the final decision to green light the plans will rest with the London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office, Access All Areas reported.
The proposed 21,500 capacity MSG Sphere (AKA London Sphere) is the brainchild of the company behind New York City’s iconic Madison Square Gardens, with a site in Stratford, East London pencilled for its location.
It has raised considerable backlash from local residents, institutions and Newham Council, for its giant orb-shaped design and estimated 1,000,000 LED light bulbs that will illuminate its exterior – projecting bright advertisements onto its exterior.
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Designed by architectural firm Populous, who designed the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium, The MSG Sphere would be nearly the same height as London’s Big Ben (90 meters) and have a diameter of the London Eye (120meters).
Plans for a similar MSG Company owned orb-like venue in Las Vegas are also underway, with the venue set to open later this year.
In response to the criticism, The MSG Company has promised that it will provide blackout blinds to homes within 150 metres of the venue, as well as those with a direct view of it. It has also said it will set up a telephone line for complaints.
Despite this, many think that the measures go nowhere near enough from mitigating the effects on the local area. Lyn Brown, the Labour MP for West Ham told the Evening Standard: “The concept of erecting a gigantic glowing ball covered with advertising right in the middle of Stratford, and in direct sight of many people’s homes, is appalling.
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“Perhaps such a project isn’t out of place in Las Vegas, where the first MSG Sphere concept is being ‘rolled out’,” she continued. “In Newham, however, this proposal is utterly out of place.
“The intention is for bright lights to pollute the local area, on certain days straight through from 6:AM to 11:PM. For some residents…it’s as it the proposal would relocate their homes next to the sun.
“Shamefully, the developers would have the gall to offer these residents blackout blinds for their homes, depriving them of healthy daylight if they choose not to subject themselves to a tormenting, incessantly glowing spectacle.”
Opposition has also come from Transport for London (TFL), Newham Council, rail operators, Historic England and neighbouring London boroughs, according to AAE.
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The proposed site is just four miles away from the UK’s current largest concert arena – the 21,000-capacity O2 Arena in Greenwich, operated by AEG.
AEG are also opposing the plans. It told AAE: “The advertising façade is at a wholly unprecedented scale for London and totally keeping with the surrounding area.
“The design was conceived for the heart of Las Vegas and has been transported onto this East London site: it’s the wrong design, in the wrong location,” AEG continued.
“Fundamentally, regardless of the findings of a review after five years, no matter how damaging and intrusive the light pollution is to the health of the residents or dangerous to rail or road users, the advertisement consent will not be revoked.”
Responding to the criticism, an LLDC spokesperson said in a statement: “The proposed MSG Sphere has been one of the most complicated applications considered by the planning authority involving significant consultation with local people, businesses and other authorities. The applications have been subject to robust review and detailed officer reports and planning permission and advertisement consent were resolved to be approved by the Planning Decisions Committee in March 2022. The Planning Decisions Committee has now approved additional details in relation to the MSG Sphere which relate to a five year review and additional controls on the digital display on the façade of the building, to be incorporated into the s.106 legal agreement.
“The applications will be referred to the Mayor of London for decision with permission only being issued subject to direction from the Mayor and when a s106 agreement has been signed.”
Isaac Muk is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter