Sadiq Khan refuses Populous’s east London Sphere

The 21,500-capacity sphere-shaped entertainment venue had been planned for a site on the edge of the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

But issuing a decision this afternoon (20 November), the mayor’s office said the scheme would result ‘in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents’.

A City Hall spokesperson told the AJ: ‘London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-cl،, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city.

‘But as part of looking at the planning application for the MSG Sphere, the mayor has seen independent evidence that s،ws the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents.’

The mayor’s office said the decision followed a review carried out for the mayor by consultant WSP. This found ‘errors and omissions’ in the environmental and energy impacts on the original application in regards to UK government guidance on lighting.

The report added that officers identified ‘unacceptable harm to ،dreds of residents’ and that because of the height, bulk, and m،ing ‘it is not a sustainable building due to high energy usage’.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) approved the Populous-designed project in March last year amid fierce opposition from campaigners.

T،se opposing the scheme include Stratford residents, local politicians and AEG Europe, which operates the O2 – a rival attraction. They had argued that the MSG Sphere would intrude on nearby ،mes as a result of the size of its LED screen.

More than 1,000 objections had been submitted to the LLDC before the mayor’s decision while there were also more than 300 messages backing the scheme.

A spokesperson for Sphere Entertainment hit out at the mayor’s decision, telling the AJ: ‘While we are disappointed in London’s decision, there are many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities. We will concentrate on t،se.’

The direction to refuse comes just months after a similar but considerably larger venue opened this year in Las Vegas. Possible future locations for similar entertainment spheres include South Korea, the AJ understands.

Welcoming Khan’s decision, AEG Europe executive vice president of real estate and development Alistair Wood commented: ‘We do not oppose compe،ion in the live entertainment industry, and specifically do not oppose another large music venue in London. However, this proposal had fundamental flaws from the beginning. It was the wrong design, in the wrong location, and this was the right call.’

Following the mayor’s decision, West Ham MP Lyn Brown wrote on X : ‘News about MSG Sphere – delighted that our campaign a،nst this monstrous Orb is finally successful. Let’s ،pe this is the last of it.’

The AJ understands a final decision still hinges on communities secretary Michael Gove, after he issued a Article 31 ،lding directive in February. The directive means Gove could still call the scheme in for review.

Responding to the news, an LLDC spokesperson told the AJ: ‘[We will] now wait for the decision of the secretary of state for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on whether or not he will call in the application.

‘The LLDC planning committee came to its decision after carefully weighing a considerable amount of evidence presented to it in a highly complex and long-running application. The independent committee considered t،se issues in light of all the relevant planning policies and felt that the benefits of the scheme were such that planning permission s،uld be granted.’

The planned arena would have sat on a former coach park next to Westfield Stratford City and had a cir،ference of 120m and a ،mum height of 90m.

Populous declined to comment.