Sadiq Khan has blocked the controversial plans from Madison Square Garden to build a 300ft replica of the Las Vegas Sphere in London‘s Olympic Park, it has been revealed – leaving hundreds of campaigners ‘delighted’.
A formal statement from the London Mayor is expected later today, Sky News reported, after growing backlash from hundreds of locals complaining that it would ‘blight’ the area.
Khan is said to be rejecting the plans on the grounds of excessive light pollution.
Madison Square Garden’s 300-foot-high ‘Sphere’ was given the go ahead by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in March to be built on an empty spot of land between Stratford Station and the Olympic Park.
The music venue, said to cost a reported £800milllion, planned to contain a 21,500-capacity arena, as well as bars and restaurants, with the project hailed as a ‘pioneer in the next generation of immersive experiences.’
The MSG Sphere has been given the go-ahead in Stratford, east London, despite an avalanche of complaints from locals. Pictured: An artist’s impression of what the sphere could look like with an image of a singer displayed on the outside
The proposed Sphere would’ve been built on what is currently an empty car park, next to the Westfield shopping centre
With capacity for 21,500 spectators, the structure’s most eye-opening selling point is the thousands of LED screens that cover the outside of the building, which can display moving images.
But locals were not happy with the decision, blasting the plans and sharing concerns that the venue would cast a shadow over residents homes, increase pollution during a three-year construction process and cause significant light pollution at night.
More than 1,000 local residents formally objected to the planning application, while a petition calling for the project to be scrapped received more than 2,000 signatures.
But after Khan’s decision today, campaigners have begun celebrating with the news that the plans will no longer go ahead.
A spokesperson for the mayor 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.’
Nate Higgins, a campaigner and local councillor for Stratford Olympic Park said: ‘Absolutely delighted that our campaigning on behalf of residents in Stratford Olympic Park alongside Against the MSG Sphere London has paid off, and Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London has today rejected the MSG Sphere planning application in his stage 2 decision.
‘We would not be here today without the work of so many incredible campaigners. Because of their tireless efforts, which I have been honoured to support as the local councilor, alongside Danny Keeling, residents will not have to put up with black out blinds or Stratford station becoming overwhelmed.’
‘London’s cultural venues are incredibly important, but this application was always completely inappropriate for the site and they 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.
Rock band U2 perform at the inaugural residence at the huge spherical concert venue MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. September 29, 2023
Developers claimed the arena would create over 1,000 new jobs and bring £50million a year into local businesses. Pictured: An artist’s impression of what the site would look like during the day with no lights on
Residents complained about the potential light pollution coming from the venue. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the sphere lit up with an image of the globe
‘We’ll have more to say in the coming weeks about what happens next, but this incredible victory goes to show the value of community organising and listening to residents. As the local councillors, we’ll never stop doing that.’
US entertainment giant AEG, which owns the O2 Arena in Greenwich just four miles away, also expressed opposition to the MSG Sphere.
Today, Alistair Wood, Executive Vice President of Real Estate & Development at AEG Europe commented: ‘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.’
The controversy surrounding the London Sphere could hardly be more vociferous. But in Vegas there had been nothing but adulation.
Creator Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden entertainment group, toyed with the idea of a muffin shape, a box and even a pyramid before settling on the 366ft Sphere.
Construction began in September 2018. Wrapping the LED panels — heat and wind-proof to cope with the desert climate — around 32 steel trusses (each weighing 100 tons) was never going to be straightforward, and the pandemic led not just to a two-year delay to its planned 2021 opening but a doubling of the estimated build cost of $1.2 billion (£1 billion).
Finally, however, in July this year, the external screens were turned on, treating startled residents to the sight of what appeared to be a giant eyeball bulging next to the famed Vegas strip.
The Sphere’s dazzling external displays have also provoked one serious unintended side-effect — a rise in car accidents, as awestruck drivers slow down to take a better look. According to The Las Vegas Review Journal, there were 27 crashes in the four-week period after the Sphere was first illuminated, compared with 37 in the two previous months.
Las Vegas locals had words of warning for the people of Stratford, as they compared the light given off by their arena to a ‘sun on Earth’
And after seeing the lights atop the nearly 365ft-high sphere from nearly two miles away resident Billy Cline, 36, said: ‘It’s almost like building a sun on Earth.’
Las Vegas Review Journal reporter Mick Akers said that while in his city, residents are ‘already used to it [bright lights]’, construction in a residential area (such as Stratford) could cause problems at night.
The arena had plans to come with shops and restaurants. Pictured: An artist’s impression of people walking around the outside of the venue
Pictured: An artist’s impression showing people walking into the venue as it’s lit up to display an image of stars and the night sky
Speaking at the time it was approved in London, West Ham MP Lyn Brown called the scheme a ‘monstrosity’ and raised fears about added pressure on local transport and in particular the station at Stratford.
The station is the fifth busiest in Britain and already copes with travellers to the Westfield shopping centre, West Ham’s 60,000-seater stadium and commuters travelling in and out of east London.
In her statement, which was read by a local councillor on her behalf, she said: ‘The last thing we need is another venue disgorging its audience into an already overcrowded transport hub.’
It is believed the advertising display could be subject to a ‘break clause’ every five years that would be subject to feedback from local residents.
In objections to the proposal submitted in 2019, local residents shared concerns the venue was cast a shadow over residents homes, increase pollution during a three-year construction process and cause significant light pollution at night.
One objector to the proposals said: ‘I am in deepest concern as this proposed building will be located right on my south side outside my window.
‘Why there is no model to assess the sunshine impact against local community and no model to assess the LED light pollution caused and how this will adversely affect the health conditions of the locals?
‘There must be another way to bring in economics into Stratford and definitely not this 90m high joke.’
Another added: ‘Extreme light pollution and noise, particularly at night, will cause severe harm to residents’ health and wellbeing.’