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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
26 January 2023, 15:33

London's controversial MSG Sphere nears final approval despite opposition

"The wrong design, in the wrong location"

MSG Sphere Approval 2023

The controversial MSG Sphere, a new arena proposed for East London, stepped closer to approval this week, despite widespread opposition to the plans. 

As first reported by events industry news site Access All Areas, on Tuesday 24th January the London Legacy Development Corporation's Planning Decisions Committee (LLDCPDC) gave the green light for Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) to begin work on the 21,500-capacity venue in Stratford. This is subject to a five year review, with the final decision on whether to proceed now with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. 

Since it was first announced in 2019, the globe-shaped structure — designed by Populous, the architectural firm behind Wembley Stadium — has been met with stiff opposition from a range of individuals and organisations. Those voices grew louder after planning permission was granted last year. 

AEG, which operates the 21,000 capacity O2 Arena four miles from the Sphere's proposed site — disused land between a railway station and Olympic Park — has expressed serious concerns about the plans. Newham Council, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, local politicians, Transport for London, Historic England and rail operators are among the other parties to object.

MSG, which also runs the world-famous Madison Square Garden in New York City, claims 4,300 jobs will be created during construction, with 1,000 permanent roles then linked to the venue once up and running. However, those in objection have voiced concerns about the impact on local residents and the area, not least from the building's external LED 'skin', which can offer 360-degree advertising for brands and events. 

“The advertising façade is at a wholly unprecedented scale for London and totally out of keeping with the surrounding area. The design was conceived for the heart of Las Vegas and has been transposed onto this east London site: it’s the wrong design, in the wrong location," a spokesperson for AEG said. 

"We have concluded that there are at least ten problems with the MSG Sphere’s proposed controls for the advertising display. 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 residents or dangerous to rail or road users, the advertisement consent will not be revoked," they continued.