Campaign against MSG Sphere slams planning process as 'biased'

A computer-generated image of the proposed MSG Sphere where almost 2,000 people have expressed an in

A computer-generated image of the proposed MSG Sphere. - Credit: MSG

A group against a proposed entertainment hub in Stratford has slammed the planning process as "biased".

Stop MSG Sphere criticised the level of support shown by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to an applicant which wants to build a 21,500-capacity venue on land west of Angel Lane.

The criticism centres on a letter from April 2020, which was released following a Freedom of Information request.

The letter is from LLDC's director of planning policy and decisions to DP9 Ltd, which acts for the applicant, The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG).

The 10-page letter requests more details about the bid and its possible impact on neighbours - engagement which LLDC said was "entirely in keeping with the scale and complexity" of the application.

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A section of the letter on the hub's façade recommends the submission of a strategy over the display of artwork and ads.

"This would help allay concerns about the effects of the screen on residential amenity and community health," the letter said.

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A further line states "acceptability" may depend on assurances provided over the Sphere's display operations.

Lindesay Mace from Stop MSG Sphere said: "While this may be considered standard planning practice, the level of support offered to MSG in this letter shows just how inherently biased the process is.

"To see LLDC making recommendations on how MSG can increase the 'acceptability' of this and 'allay' concerns feels shocking," Ms Mace said.

An LLDC spokesperson said that as with all local planning authorities, it must follow the guidelines of the National Planning Policy Framework and work proactively with applicants to resolve issues with proposed developments.

He added: "This is set out in LLDC’s current local plan. The level of engagement with the applicant as well as with other stakeholders through public consultation is entirely in keeping with the scale and complexity of this particular application.

"Our independent planning decision committee alone will determine the application in line with national, London-wide and local planning policy." 

MSG declined to comment, but a letter from DP9 to LLDC sent in August points to proposed voluntary conditions to control content shown on the sphere's surface.

The applicant has also submitted reports on residential amenity and an advertising design statement since LLDC's letter was sent a year ago.

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