Artist's impression of the MSG Sphere in Stratford

Gove halts plans for MSG Sphere in Olympic Park to become the UK’s largest arena

The MSG sphere, a giant event space, has had plans put on hold after strong opposition from locals and the O2. 

Plans to develop the Madison Square Gardens (MSG) Sphere, a Las Vegas-style dome in Olympic Park, were halted by Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove last Thursday, over fears light pollution would negatively impact communities in Stratford and around Newham.

If built, it would stand as a 21,500-seater arena and 1,500-capacity nightclub in the shape of a colossal, glowing orb.

Gove paused plans for the 90m high arena after pressure from AEG, O2’s operating company that also runs All Points East festival in Vicky Park, and local East Enders who fear light from the venue would deny them some well-earned shuteye.

East Enders in nearby homes voiced opposition towards the 1 million LED lights on the building’s surface that would create substantial light pollution and could play videos and advertising from dawn till as late as 11 pm.

AEG, O2’s operating company, objected on the grounds that their iconic Greenwich arena sits just four miles away and a second venue is unnecessary.

This comes after a high air pollution alert was issued in London on 4 January, with light pollution a factor in the capital’s dangerous smog.

Rokhsana Fiaz, Newham Mayor, expressed concern for the health of her residents, not just in Stratford but borough-wide, urging Gove to call in the plans.

‘I’ve written to Michael Gove asking that he call in the application for his determination – the health and wellbeing of Newham residents must come first,’ she said.

Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham, also spoke out against the move.

‘The concept of erecting a gigantic glowing ball covered with advertising right in the middle of Stratford, and in direct sight of many people’s homes, is appalling.’

Gove used the Article 31 Holding Directive, a legal tool, to temporarily prevent the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the group behind Queen Elizabeth Park, and Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, from signing off on the plans.

The Mayor of London has yet to green-light the plans and currently has the power to approve or deny them.

But Gove could use a law, Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to give himself the final say.

Despite the setback and negative publicity, an MSG spokesperson was confident the government review would not impact its plans.

‘We are confident our proposal thoughtfully sets out how we will deliver a world-class venue, and remain excited about the opportunity to bring MSG Sphere to London,’ the spokesperson said.

MSG also said the nightclub would help support grassroots and emerging music acts, but questions remain over how local artists would be able to afford to use the space given the construction’s hefty cost.

The American sports company previously faced criticism for using facial recognition systems at its venues since 2018. In 2022, the company used this technology to identify and ban lawyers involved in legal action against it, according to the New York Times.

A prospective opening date has yet to be given.

For more of our news stories read about an archive of David Bowie’s life at V&A East.

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