London mayor Sadiq Khan has blocked plans to plonk a big bright MSG Sphere venue in the middle of Stratford, concluding that East London is not a suitable place to replicate the Vegas entertainment complex.
Confirming the decision, a spokesperson for Khan said that, while the mayor “wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city”, when investigating the plans for building an MSG Sphere next to the Olympic Park in Stratford, “the mayor has seen independent evidence that shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents”.
Implying that Khan’s decision means it is now abandoning its plan to open a Sphere venue in the UK, a spokesperson for MSG 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”.
MSG’s plans were originally considered by the London Legacy Development Corporation, the planning authority for property developments in and around the site of the 2012 Olympics. It granted approval for the building, despite plenty of opposition from local residents and politicians.
The Sphere venues – the first of which recently opened in Las Vegas – contain lots of high tech wizardry. But most notable is the LED skin that turns the outside of the building into a massive screen, used to display a combination of quirky imagery and plenty of advertising. For people living near the site of the proposed Stratford venue, that was a key concern.
Others also noted that there are already two sizeable venues in the Olympic Park – including a stadium – while The O2 complex in Greenwich is just three tube stops away. Many felt that adding another major venue into the mix could cause significant local transport issues.
According to Evening Standard, three factors ultimately persuaded Khan to block the new venue: “The amount of light pollution that it would cause for Stratford residents, its huge electricity bill and associated lack of ‘green’ credentials, and the impact it would have on heritage sites in the area”.
Having been approved by the LLDC and then knocked back by Khan, in theory there could be a final stage of planning consideration by the UK government, because earlier this year minister Michael Gove issued a so called ‘holding direction’, which gives him the right to intervene.
However, campaigners mainly saw that move as another way to block the Sphere had Khan approved it and MSG’s statement seems to suggest that it has now given up on its London venue ambitions.
Its rival, AEG, which operates The O2, welcomed Khan’s decision. Its EVP Of Real Estate & Development, Alistair Wood, said yesterday: “We welcome the mayor of London’s decision to direct refusal of the Sphere’s planning application today. We do not oppose competition in the live entertainment industry and specifically do not oppose another large music venue in London. However, this proposal had fundamental flaws from the beginning. It was the wrong design, in the wrong location, and this was the right call”.