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Controversial London music venue, MSG Sphere, gets full planning permission

Madison Square Garden Entertainment wants to build a 90ft high spherical music venue in Stratford, East London.
The venue would have a capacity of 21,500 people.
The MSG Sphere was designed by Populous with an outer skin of LEDs.
A similar sphere is on-site in Las Vegas, with completion expected in 2023.
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The MSG Sphere, a controversial auditorium and music globe designed by Populous, has been given full planning permission by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).

If built, the Sphere would tower 90m above Stratford, London, and in addition to the auditorium, would include a nightclub, bars, restaurants, cafés, shops and parking.

The sphere would boast the “largest and highest resolution LED screen in the world” – in the form of a “skin” of LED lights covering the outer surface

It would be London’s largest multi-use arena when complete, with capacity for 21,500 people.

Developer, US-based Madison Square Garden Entertainment, says the MSG Sphere would generate more than £2.5bn ($3.28bn, €3bn) during its first 20 years of operation.

“Following careful consideration, the independent Planning Decisions Committee has granted full planning permission for the MSG Sphere, subject to conditions and a S106 legal agreement securing a wide range of mitigation,” said an an LLDC spokesperson.

S106 agreements are drafted when buildings will have a significant impact on the local area. The site in question is a 1.87-hectare triangle of land, a disused coach park from the London 2012 Olympics and 100 metres from Stratford train station.

A report published by EY for MSG found the Sphere would support around 3,200 jobs each year, bring £77m into the London Borough of Newham annually and generate additional revenues of over £50m (US$65m, €60m) a year for local businesses. Yet, despite these economic benefits, plans for the ambitious project have been met with controversy since the application was made four years ago by MSG, Populous, DP9 and ME Engineer.

“The proposed MSG Sphere has been one of the most complicated applications considered by the planning authority, involving significant consultation with local people, businesses and other authorities,” acknowledged the spokesperson.

The site is surrounded on three sides by housing and local residents have submitted hundreds of responses objecting to the development.

Light pollution, including “upward light spill” was one of the key issues brought up during the consultation process.

“Extreme light pollution and noise, particularly at night, will cause severe harm to residents’ health and wellbeing,” wrote one resident. “Stratford is not Piccadilly Circus.”

As a result, the LCDC confirms that “the Committee resolved to grant advertisement consent subject to agreement” – and a review of the advertising after five years is being written into the S106 document.

Noise pollution, appropriateness of its scale in the local area and overcrowding are some of the other most common issues raised by local people.

“Words can't express how we feel after tonight,” wrote the Stop MSG Sphere London group on Twitter. “6 to 4 in favour of the Sphere, all elected representatives against. @MayorofLondon must reject the application when it comes to him.”

On completion, the venue would be the second MSG Sphere in the world after one being built in Las Vegas, which has an estimated production cost of $1.8bn ($2.36, €2.15) and is due to be completed in 2023.

The O2, formerly the Millennium Dome, which is owned by Anschutz Entertainment and seats 20,000 people, has proven a lucrative investment, being the busiest entertainment venue in the world. The construction of the MSG Sphere would locate a similar-capacity venue less than ten minutes away by public transport

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The MSG Sphere, a controversial auditorium and music globe designed by Populous, has been given full planning permission by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).
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