“Parody of democracy”: anger against the vote of MSG Sphere

7:02 p.m. March 28, 2022

Critics hit the committee which approved a new venue for events in Stratford after elected councilors were outvoted by unelected members.

The Madison Square Garden (MSG) Sphere app was the subject of hours of debate by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) Planning Decisions Committee last week.

The committee voted six to four in favor of the plans proposed by MSG Entertainment.

But the four votes against came from elected councillors.

The rest of the committee is made up of members of the LLDC Board of Directors and independent planning experts.

Campaign group Stop the MSG Sphere called the decision a “travesty of democracy“.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown, a longtime opponent of the Sphere plans, added: “I wish I could say I am shocked by the LLDC’s decision to impose this huge, glowing scourge on our communities.

“Among the unelected members of the committee who make the decision, there is only token local representation.

“LLDC’s version of Olympic legacy has become a tyranny.”

A spokesperson for LLDC said the sphere application and a separate application for publicity clearance, which was also approved, were subject to “rigorous review” and a detailed report by officers .

MP Lyn Brown criticized the decision to endorse the sphere
– Credit: Ken Mears

They added: “The proposed MSG Sphere was one of the most complicated applications considered by the planning authority, involving extensive consultation with local people, businesses and other authorities.

“The composition of the committee is approved by the board of the London Legacy Development Corporation and has been in place since 2013.

“The decisions he made resulted in the development of important legacy projects.”

If built, the venue would have a capacity of 21,500 and would be based on land to the west of Angel Lane.

CGI of proposed MSG sphere.  Photo: MSG

A CGI of the proposed MSG sphere
– Credit: MSG

In a statement read out at the meeting, Ms Brown said: ‘I don’t think Newham needs this flashy development designed for non-residents.

MSG Entertainment is already building the first MSG Sphere in Las Vegas.

But Ms Brown said: “Stratford doesn’t want to be Las Vegas. It’s not the place, the spectacle or the image we want for Stratford.”

She also has light, noise, and transportation concerns about the sphere.

“Stratford station has now officially become the busiest in the country. It is overcrowded and the last thing we need is another venue in London dumping its public into an already overcrowded transport hub.”

Stop the MSG Sphere pledged to continue fighting the venue, which also opposed a petition with over 2,000 signatures.

Newham Council said it would continue to make “planning objections” to the scheme.

In a statement, he added: “We have always maintained that the sphere will have adverse effects on transportation and residential amenities if it continues.

“The visual impact will significantly affect the area, as well as the well-being and health of our residents who will have to live with this for years to come.”

The sphere will be 96 meters high – the same height as Big Ben – and will feature the world’s largest LED screen.

It is expected to support around 1,300 jobs when opened and MSG Entertainment is targeting at least half of these for residents of the LLDC boroughs – Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest.

It is also estimated that it will bring £2.5billion to the capital’s economy in its first 20 years of operation.

Richard Constable, Executive Vice President, Global Head of Government Affairs and Social Impact at MSG Entertainment, said, “We are delighted that the planning committee has voted in favor of our vision for MSG Sphere.

“The views of the local community are extremely important to us, and throughout this process we have listened and acted on the feedback.

“We are grateful for this collaboration, which is reflected in every aspect of our detailed proposal.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with a wide range of stakeholders as we move through the next steps in the approvals process.”

The scheme has also received strong supporters, with the University of East London (UEL), Theater Royal Stratford East and London City Airport backing the plans.

A UEL spokesperson told The Recorder: ‘The development will bring thousands of technical and creative jobs and other benefits to our community as we help build a fairer and greener economy together for Newham and east London.

“Global attraction and our developing reputation for the arts and creative industries could be transformational for Newham and provide much-needed support to this pandemic-affected sector.”

In recommending the sphere for approval, LLDC planning officers said the sphere would “provide an appealing visual backdrop for people living, working, enjoying recreation, visiting and traveling in the metropolitan downtown”.

The request, which is also subject to a legal agreement under Section 106, will now be forwarded to London Mayor Sadiq Khan.