An east London music venue as wide as the London Eye and as tall as Big Ben has been approved by planners, despite opposition from thousands of local people.
The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) made the decision about the MSG Sphere, a live entertainment concept from New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) company, on Tuesday night. It would be built on an empty spot of land between Stratford station and the Olympic Park, but has not yet been approved by the mayor.
The 21,500-capacity venue, reported to cost £800m, is designed for “the next generation of immersive experiences”. It would feature the biggest and highest-resolution LED screen in the world, an “infrasound haptic system” of vibrating floors, and “beamforming” audio technology to channel sound to every seat.
The building’s facade is a spherical LED screen measuring two hectares (five acres). It’s expected to glow 24 hours a day and be covered with animated adverts for half the time, flickering right outside people’s bedroom windows. Inside, there will be restaurants and bars.
If built, the MSG Sphere will become the largest concert arena in the UK, outstripping Manchester Arena (capacity 21,000) and London’s O2 Arena (20,000).
The scheme’s supporters, including the University of East London and the former cabinet minister Matt Hancock, say it will boost the capital’s economy by £2.5bn, bringing construction and hospitality jobs to the area.
Paul Westbury, from MSG, said the application had gone through a “thorough assessment” and that the venue would help make Stratford “a global destination for music and technology”, the Evening Standard reported.
But local people say it will “blight the area” with noise and light pollution, and predict that it will be like “living next to the surface of the sun”. More than 1,000 people objected to the planning application, while a petition calling for the scheme to be scrapped received more than 2,000 signatures.
Among those in opposition is Lyn Brown, the West Ham MP, who described the venue as a “monstrosity” and said it would pile pressure on the local transport network, particularly at Stratford station, which is already a hub for commuters to the Westfield shopping centre and West Ham’s 60,000-seater stadium.
In a statement, she said: “The last thing we need is another venue disgorging its audience into an already overcrowded transport hub.”
Writing in the Guardian last summer, Brown added: “I have had serious concerns for some time about the value of this proposed development, the degree of community consent it has involved and the harm it may do to people in Stratford and neighbouring areas. Newham doesn’t want this venue, yet it’s the LLDC, not Newham council, that gets to recommend to Sadiq Khan whether it is built.”
An MSG Entertainment spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the planning committee voted in support of our vision for MSG Sphere. 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 on to the next steps in the approval process.”