AEG repeats calls for LLDC to reject “seriously inadequate and flawed” MSG Sphere planning application as 22 March committee date announced


March 14, 2022

- After years of delay, a decision will finally be made at a planning committee meeting on 22 March

- It has attracted significant local opposition and national media criticism since its inception

- The application was submitted 3 years ago (March 2019)

- Planning application file totals over 2,000 documents

- Local council objects to the application but is not the final decision maker

- Transport for London has expressed significant concerns and has asked for curbs on the operation of the new venue that will impact the Sphere’s fundamental purpose and viability

- Analysis of severe impact on Jubilee Line and transport hubs remains incomplete

- The applicant Madison Square Garden has claimed that the two-hectare facade with over 1 million LEDs has “no adverse health effects” without credible evidence to support that position

The world’s leading sports and entertainment operator, AEG, is repeating calls for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to reject the planning application for the proposed MSG Sphere in Stratford when the committee meets on Tuesday 22 March, three years after plans were first submitted in March 2019.

AEG has consistently stated throughout that it does not oppose competition from another large venue in London, but maintains that this is the wrong location for such a venue; the proposed Sphere is too close to other major venues - London Stadium, Copper Box and The O2 – and therefore the crowds will pose a serious and dangerous impact on local transport infrastructure.

Concern has also been raised that due to the protracted application period, and the drip feed of documentation with over 2,000 separate documents and representations online, the enormous scale of the submission has made it impossible for residents and affected parties to access all of the relevant information to properly understand the implications of what is proposed.

Broad coalition in opposition

There has been consistent and significant opposition to the MSG Sphere, including from local MPs, Newham Council, neighbouring boroughs Hackney and Greenwich, railway operators, Transport for London, Historic England, and hundreds of local residents.

MSG has provided inadequate technical information throughout planning process

A decision by the LLDC will be the culmination of the local planning process, which has been beset by significant delays due to inadequate technical information provided by the applicant. Reflective of the deficiencies in the application, the LLDC has served formal requests to MSG for further information relating to its environmental impact on two separate occasions.

Newham Council opposes the Sphere, but LLDC is decision maker

Despite its opposition to the project and the Sphere’s potential significant impact on local residents, the decision maker will not be the local council, Newham. Authority resides with the LLDC, an organisation that reports to the Mayor of London and which is due to be disbanded in the next few years.

The safe and efficient movement of visitors to and from The O2 will be impossible

As a highly experienced venue operator in London, and world-leading venue and events business that has safely welcomed over 70 million people to and from The O2 since opening in 2007, AEG is particularly concerned that MSG’s analysis of the potential transport impact remains incomplete and unclear.

The safe and efficient movement of visitors to and from The O2 relies heavily on there being sufficient capacity on Jubilee Line trains when they reach North Greenwich tube station as it is the only underground line connecting the Greenwich Peninsula to the rest of London.

MSG Sphere crowds will depart Stratford heading west at the same time as visitors departing from events at The O2 (and in worst-case scenarios from London Stadium events as well). This would leave no capacity on the trains at North Greenwich for the arena’s visitors, leading to transport chaos and the risk of visitors missing onward connections home and becoming stranded. Despite this potential impact being identified, MSG are unwilling to agree to restrictions on the operation of the Sphere in order to mitigate this impact.  Nor are they willing to provide any additional train services.

Health risk to local residents caused by MSG Sphere advertising is unknown

The exterior of the MSG Sphere is an area of two hectares and more than 90 metres in height (broadly the height of St Paul's Cathedral), comprising a digital display of over a million LEDs. Yet there is no qualified professional assessment of the potential health and wellbeing effects of light, moving images, and visual distraction to local people, including vulnerable groups and children, or specialist assessment of the health and amenity implications of the advertising façade.

The display is described as a “fully programmable exterior that serves as a digital showcase for the venue, artists and partners” and “fundamental” to the proposals.  The highly unusual exterior is not necessary for the operation of the venue and so the assumption is that the displays are fundamental to generating advertising revenue and therefore the financial viability of the project.

This illuminated facade will have an unacceptable impact, especially on local residents adjacent to the proposed Sphere, many of whom have living spaces looking out directly onto near-constant moving imagery.

A spokesperson for AEG said:

“We are calling on the LLDC to refuse MSG’s application for a new venue in Stratford and encourage the Mayor of London to formally oppose this project in order to protect Newham’s residents and existing businesses from this inappropriate development.

“MSG’s planning application is hopelessly inadequate and fails to address the issues arising out of its new London context and the specific constraints of the Stratford Site, breaching planning policy in several areas.   The proposals would exacerbate congestion at the already over-crowded Stratford Station, and no additional train services are proposed to mitigate the impact on the Jubilee Line.  It has been suggested that various further modelling and assessment be undertaken post-planning meaning that the full impact of the proposals is simply not known.

“AEG have always maintained we do not oppose competition in the live entertainment sector, or another large music venue in London, but it should not be built so close to The London Stadium, Copper Box, Westfield and The O2.

“It is imperative that it does not add to congestion or overcrowding in this area of the city, or on the public transport network, especially the Jubilee line which is critical for the movement of guests to and from The O2. We believe that MSG’s scheme is fundamentally the wrong proposal, in the wrong location, and is technically seriously flawed.

“Far from being conceived to reflect its east London context, MSG have taken their original concept developed for downtown Las Vegas and transposed it directly onto a tight and constrained site overlooked by hundreds of residential properties in Stratford.”

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