London’s Madison Sq. Backyard Sphere receives planning permission | London


A music venue in east London as wide as the London Eye and as tall as Big Ben has been approved by planners despite opposition from thousands of locals.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) made the decision on Tuesday evening about the MSG Sphere, a live entertainment concept from the New York company Madison Square Garden (MSG). If approved by the mayor, it would be built on an empty tract of land between Stratford railway station and the Olympic Park.

The 21,500-seat venue is designed for “next-generation immersive experiences.” It would feature the world’s largest and highest-definition LED screen, an “infrasonic haptic system” of vibrating floors, and “beamforming” audio technology to direct sound to each seat.

The facade of the building is a spherical LED screen measuring two hectares. It’s expected to be lit most of the time and covered with animated advertisements flickering near people’s bedroom windows. Inside there will be restaurants and bars.

The MSG Sphere will surpass the UK’s current largest concert venues, the Manchester Arena (capacity 21,000) and London’s O2 Arena (20,000), although the Co-op Live Arena under construction in east Manchester is expected to seat 23,500.

MSG Sphere supporters, including the University of East London and former Cabinet Secretary Matt Hancock, say it will boost the capital’s economy by £2.5 billion and bring construction and hospitality jobs to the region.

MSG’s Paul Westbury said the bid had been given a “thorough review” and that the venue would help make Stratford “a global destination for music and technology”, the Evening Standard reported.

But locals say it will plague the area with noise and light pollution, and predict it will be like “living next to the surface of the sun”. More than 1,000 people rejected the planning application, while a petition calling for the plan to be scrapped received more than 2,000 signatures.

Words cannot express how we feel after tonight. 6 to 4 for the Sphere, all elected representatives against. Once again, local residents have been fooled. Shouts of “shame!” could be heard from the floor. @MayorofLondon has to refuse the motion when it comes to him.

— Stop MSG Sphere London (@StopMSGSphere) March 22, 2022

Among opponents is West Ham MP Lyn Brown, who called the venue a “monstrosity” and said it would put pressure on the local transport network, particularly Stratford train station, which is already a hub for commuters to Westfield shopping Center and West Ham’s 60,000 seat stadium.

In a statement, she said: “The last thing we need is another venue spewing its audience into an already crowded transport hub.”

Brown wrote in the Guardian last summer: “I have had serious concerns for some time about the value of this proposed development, the level of community support it will bring and the harm it could do to the people of Stratford and adjacent areas. Newham doesn’t want this venue but it is the LLDC, not Newham City Council, who can recommend to Sadiq Khan whether it will be built.”

A spokesman for MSG Entertainment said: “We are delighted that the planning committee has supported our vision for MSG Sphere. Throughout this process we have worked closely with a variety of stakeholders and are grateful for their collaboration, which is reflected in our detailed proposal. We now look forward to moving forward with the next steps in the approval process.”

This article was modified on March 23-24, 2022 to remove incorrect references to the globe glowing “24 hours a day” and covered with animated advertisements “half the time”. An unconfirmed figure for the cost of the project has also been removed.