By Chris Cooke | Published on Wednesday 25 January 2023
Live giant AEG has criticised a decision by the London Legacy Development Corporation to approve plans by its rival MSG regarding the digital displays that will cover the new Sphere venue that is set to be built in Stratford, East London.
There has been plenty of controversy surrounding MSG’s plan to build a Sphere venue – similar to the one due to open in Las Vegas later this year – alongside London’s Olympic Park. However, the LLDC – which is currently the planning authority around the former Olympics site – granted approval for the project last year.
Various issues have been raised about the new venue complex. Some point out that there are already two significant venues in the Olympic Park – the London Stadium and Copper Box – while The O2, operated by AEG, is just a few tube stops away. There are fears that, if there are days when events happen in all those spaces, as well as the new Sphere, local travel infrastructure won’t be able to cope.
The other big issue is the unique design of the Sphere, the outside of which will be covered by an LED skin which will illuminate the surrounding area sixteen hours a day, mainly pumping out advertising that will bring in additional revenue for MSG. Critics say that the digital display covering the venue will be a major inconvenience for people living in the hundreds of residential properties that surround the site where the Sphere will be built.
Although the LLDC approved the Sphere project last year, there were still technicalities to be worked out regarding the digital display. MSG has been granted a 25 year licence allowing it to pump out advertising via the new venue’s LED covered walls, however that was conditional on agreeing the specifics of a five year review of said licence, and various “appropriate controls to ensure that any unforeseen health and wellbeing impacts could be addressed should they arise”.
MSG’s proposals for those specifics were discussed at a meeting of the LLDC’s Planning Decisions Committee last night. Among other things, MSG says it will provide blackout blinds to homes within 150 metres of the new venue, and will operate a specific telephone line via which local residents can file any complaints.
The committee ultimately accepted MSG’s proposals regarding the digital displays, moving the whole project one step further to full approval. Although London mayor Sadiq Khan still needs to formally green light the project. Those campaigning against the new venue – including local residents and AEG – are now all calling on the mayor to block the venture.
AEG said in a statement last night: “We are dismayed by the LLDC PDC’s decision to sign off the MSG Sphere’s advertising strategy for its digital display in the face of strong objections from Newham Council, neighbouring east London boroughs, the Royal Borough Of Greenwich, the local MP, rail operators, Transport For London, Historic England and hundreds of local residents, some of whom are represented by local campaign group Stop MSG”.
“We call on the mayor of London to uphold his election promise to do what’s best for Londoners, including the residents of Newham who are having this huge development forced on them, by directing refusal of the planning application”, the statement went on.
“The advertising façade is at a wholly unprecedented scale for London and totally out of keeping with the surrounding area. The design was conceived for the heart of Las Vegas and has been transposed onto this East London site: it’s the wrong design, in the wrong location”.
“We have concluded that there are at least ten problems with the MSG Sphere’s proposed controls for the advertising display”, it continued. “Fundamentally, regardless of the findings of a review after five years, no matter how damaging and intrusive the light pollution is to the health of residents or dangerous to rail or road users, the advertisement consent will not be revoked”.
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