Las Vegas Sphere London - Stratford: Sadiq Khan rejects application for giant venue in east London

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The MSG Sphere, which would have been very similar to the Las Vegas Sphere, was earmarked for a site at the Olympic Park in Stratford.

Sadiq Khan has rejected an application to build a giant LED-covered multi-use entertainment venue in east London as tall as Big Ben.

The MSG Sphere, which would have been very similar to the recently-opened Sphere in Las Vegas and run by the same company, Sphere Entertainment, was earmarked for a site at the Olympic Park in Stratford.

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While final approval would also have been required from the government, had Mr Khan given the application the green light it would have moved plans for the mega-venue a significant step forward.

In addition to the music venue, which would have been able to accommodate up to 21,500 people, the MSG Sphere would have included a club, restaurants and a range of other entertainment offerings.

The project raised serious concerns among residents, primarily due to its expected light pollution and impact on those living near to the Stratford site.

Plans for LED lights to be attached to its exterior, which would have projected a range of content including adverts and digital art, drew particular consternation.

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A mock-up of what the MSG Sphere would have looked like in east London. Credit: MSG Sphere.A mock-up of what the MSG Sphere would have looked like in east London. Credit: MSG Sphere.
A mock-up of what the MSG Sphere would have looked like in east London. Credit: MSG Sphere. | MSG Sphere

On a website which hosted information about the scheme, since taken down, Sphere Entertainment said it was “very conscious” of its neighbours and impacts of the venue, and that it had “taken several steps to mitigate the potential for light pollution including establishing set operating hours and luminance levels for the venue’s external lighting”.

It is understood the mayor's decision was largely based on the issue of light pollution, as well as concerns relating to the building's height and bulk and unsustainable energy usage.

A City Hall spokesperson said that due to an Article 31 Direction being issued by levelling up secretary Michael Gove earlier this year, stating he is considering whether to 'call in' the application to be determined, it is for him to decide whether MSG Sphere can appeal Mr Khan's decision.

An appeal seems unlikley, with a Sphere Entertainment spokesperson saying: “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.”

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The MSG Sphere would have been covered in LED lights displaying a range of advertising and other content. Credit: MSG London.The MSG Sphere would have been covered in LED lights displaying a range of advertising and other content. Credit: MSG London.
The MSG Sphere would have been covered in LED lights displaying a range of advertising and other content. Credit: MSG London. | MSG London

Commenting on X, formerly Twitter, following the announcement, the Stop MSG Sphere London campaign group wrote it is “delighted” that Mr Khan rejected the application.

Green councillor for Stratford Olympic Park Nate Higgins said: “Absolutely delighted to share 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 councillor alongside Cllr Danny Keeling, residents will not have to put up with black out blinds or Stratford station becoming overwhelmed.”

Members of the London Assembly’s environment committee earlier this year warned about the light levels expected as a result of the Sphere.

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Zack Polanski, a Green member of the London Assembly and chair of the environment committee throughout its investigation, posted on X: "Huge win for the London Assembly Environment Committee here.

"I'm very proud that as the chair, I called on the Mayor in May to reject the MSG Sphere application on the grounds of light pollution for humans & wildlife.

"And delighted the Mayor on this ocassion [sic] has listened!"

Alistair Wood, executive vice president of real estate and development at O2 Arena owner AEG Europe said: "We welcome the mayor of London’s decision to direct refusal of the Sphere’s planning application today.

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"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.”

A spokesperson for Mr Khan 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.”

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