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London’s controversial MSG Sphere gets planning approval

The Stratford project's planning application was met with more than 1,000 objections and a petition with over 2,000 signatures against the venue.

London’s controversial MSG Sphere gets planning approval

A controversial new venue is one step closer to being built in east London despite pushback from thousands of local residents.

The MSG Sphere, a proposed new 21,500-capacity venue from the company behind New York's Madison Square Garden (MSG), was approved by planners London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) on Tuesday, according to the Guardian. The Stratford project next must get approval from London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Plans for what would be the UK's largest venue call the Sphere "the next generation of immersive experiences," marked by a high-resolution LED screen on the outside of the building measuring more than 90 metres tall with an area of five acres. The massive screen is expected to primarily broadcast advertisements. Inside, plans call for floors fitted with an "infrasound haptic system" and a soundsystem with "beamforming" technology to each seat. A mix of restaurants and bars are also included in the development plans.

The building site's location is between Stratford station and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, next to the Westfield shopping destination. Despite the LLDC's approval, MSG Company's planning application was met with more than 1,000 objections and a petition against the venue gathered over 2,000 signatures. Local residents said neighbouring the MSG Sphere would be like "living next to the surface of the sun" due to the LED screen and its anticipated light pollution. West Ham MP Lyn Brown called the Sphere a "monstrosity," adding, "The last thing we need is another venue disgorging its audience into an already overcrowded transport hub.”

Supporters for the Sphere include ex-cabinet minister Matt Hancock, who claimed it would bring more hospitality and construction jobs to Stratford and add £2.5 billion to London's economy. 

A representative from the MSG Company said, "Throughout this process we have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, and are grateful for their collaboration, which is reflected in our detailed proposal. We now look forward to progressing on to the next steps in the approval process."

Correction: An unverified figure for the cost of the MSG Sphere's construction was removed from this article on 25th March 2022

Photo credit: MSG Company