Madison Square Garden’s controversial MSG Sphere London project has been given the go-ahead by planning officials despite objections from rival AEG.
The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) planning committee voted to back the application – which still requires approval from the mayor – by a 6-4 majority at a meeting last night (22 March), three years after plans were first submitted.
The 21,500-cap venue, which would be MSG’s first property outside of the US, is set to be located in Stratford, east London, four miles from AEG’s The O2 (20,000-cap) in North Greenwich. The building will be covered in LED panels designed to display digital content, including moving images, artistic content and branded advertising.
“We are pleased that the planning committee voted in support of our vision for MSG Sphere,” says a statement from MSG, first reported by Pollstar. “Throughout this process we have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, and are grateful for their collaboration which is reflected in our detailed proposal. We now look forward to progressing onto the next steps in the approval process.”
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. However, more than 850 objections were received to the proposal, with 355 written responses in support.
“Reoccurring themes in representations in support are that the proposed development and advertisement proposals would make a distinctive contribution to the Stratford skyline, improve connectivity, create jobs and be an iconic visitor attraction,” read the report by LLDC principal planning development manager Daniel Davies, which had backed the scheme.
“Reoccurring themes in opposition to the proposed development are the lack of need for the development as well as its scale, massing and form in the local context, its impact on Stratford Station and the impact of advertising on residential amenity, the setting of heritage assets and public safety” it added.
“AEG HAVE ALWAYS MAINTAINED WE DO NOT OPPOSE COMPETITION IN THE LIVE ENTERTAINMENT SECTOR”
AEG has previously voiced concerns over the proposed venue’s proximity to The O2 and reiterated its opposition in the run-up to last night’s meeting.
“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,” said a spokesperson for the company.
“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.”
A 2019 investigation by The Times found that AEG had created a residents’ group to oppose the scheme.
Earlier this month, MSG announced the appointment of veteran executive Lucas Watson as MSG Sphere president. Watson, who takes up the new role next week, will lead the strategy and execution of all business aspects of MSG Sphere and the company’s planned state-of-the-art venues.
He will oversee the global development of the MSG Sphere brand, including selectively extending the MSG Sphere network to other markets.
The first MSG Sphere venue, MSG Sphere at The Venetian, is currently under construction in Las Vegas and is scheduled to open in the second half of calendar 2023.
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