AEG Europe has stepped up its opposition to Madison Square Garden’s proposed MSG Sphere London venue by calling on levelling up secretary Michael Gove to block the scheme.
If given final approval, the 21,500-cap Sphere will be located in Stratford, east London, four miles from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap) in North Greenwich. AEG is a longtime critic of the scheme, having voiced concerns over its proximity to The O2 and – according to a 2019 investigation by The Times – creating a residents’ group in opposition.
The MSG scheme was approved in principal in March last year and handed a further boost last month when its digital advertising display plans for the exterior of the venue were backed by London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC), which was set up to secure the legacy of the Olympic Park following the London 2012 Olympics.
However, at the end of last week, Gove asked local officials “not to grant permission on the applications without specific authorisation” by issuing a holding direction to the LLDC. AEG says the MP’s intervention at this stage is significant because he has the jurisdiction to block the development entirely.
AEG claims the LLDC’s decision-making process has been “seriously flawed”, adding that that the proposed LED-covered Sphere will add congestion to the local public transport infrastructure and blot London’s skyline.
“MORE THAN A DECADE AFTER THE OLYMPIC GAMES, THE LLDC’S PLANNING DECISION PROCESS IS NOW AT ODDS WITH THE VIEWS OF THE COMMUNITIES THAT IT WAS SET UP TO SUPPORT AND DEVELOP”
“More than a decade after the Olympic Games, the LLDC’s planning decision process is now at odds with the views of the communities that it was set up to support and develop,” says Alistair Wood, EVP real estate and development at AEG Europe. “With the LLDC due to be disbanded at the end of next year, it would be democratic for the government to intervene and back the wishes of elected councils in east London who want this inappropriate development blocked to protect the wellbeing of local people and existing businesses.
“Since these proposals first emerged back in 2017, AEG has consistently raised its objections to the unacceptable impact that this proposal will have on the operation of The O2 and the hundreds of residents who will be even more directly affected.
Last week, local MP Lyn Brown wrote on Twitter: “Last year I wrote to the government and Mayor of London about stopping the monstrous MSG Sphere. Michael Gove has now issued a legal notice and I’m hoping he’ll act. The undemocratic LLDC steamrolled all local elected opposition, so it’s only right to take the final decision out of their hands.”
MSG Sphere London would become MSG’s first property outside of the US. MSG has suggested that London has an “undersupply” of dedicated large entertainment venues compared with cities such as Berlin, Paris, Madrid and New York. The capital’s next biggest indoor spaces are the 12,500-cap OVO Arena Wembley and the 10,400-cap Alexandra Palace.
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