Impact of MSG Sphere on neighbours compared to ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’
PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 November 2020
A councillor has compared life next door to a proposed entertainment hub to living in the “Black Hole of Calcutta”.
Cllr Harvinder Singh Virdee was speaking at a meeting in which strategic development committee members agreed the town hall’s latest response to plans to build the MSG Sphere in Stratford.
The committee heard concerns about the impact of the orb shaped Sphere’s illuminated surface on surrounding homes, which include student digs.
Lindesay Mace from the Stop the MSG campaign said: “We are concerned the council’s proposed mitigation of installing black-out blinds in affected windows may suggest that the council does not appreciate the true magnitude of this issue.
“We do not see how black-out blinds will be sufficient to block out a 90m x 120m building entirely covered in digital screens.”
Cllr Singh Virdee, drawing a comparison with the 18th century Indian dungeon, said: “For students to have to put down blinds, even during the day and then during the night, it’s like living in the Black Hole of Calcutta.
“I still have reservations about the suitability of this project going ahead in a location which is surrounded by residents.”
He described as “absurd” the applicant’s “brushing off” of concerns about the mental health impact of the building’s illuminated surface on young people.
Chris Goddard, of DP9 acting for the applicant Stratford Garden Development Ltd, said light issues were assessed and guidelines would be complied with through conditions.
An 11pm curfew would also see the Sphere’s illumination lowered in line with standards deemed appropriate for residential areas by industry experts.
“I’m aware views are divided on this and quite subjectively, because we have genuinely also had representations and comments from people who think this is a fascinating building and something that would be a benefit to the area,” Mr Goddard added.
The scheme would see the entertainment and leisure hub built on the triangular site in Angel Lane with a capacity for 21,500 visitors.
The design’s outer “skin” would act as a display on which ads and announcements appear.
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The bid was submitted to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in March, 2019.
But LLDC requested more information, including on the scheme’s impacts on health, equalities, transport, road and rail safety and light.
The applicant supplied the details and introduced conditions in relation to when the building is lit and the strength of illuminations.
Newham’s concerns include the impacts on Stratford and Maryland stations, bus services, noise, light and air quality.
But Ms Mace urged Newham to go further in its response and insist the digital screen gets recognised as a façade.
She said this meant the developer could not avoid meeting limits on the scheme’s upwards sky glow.
The campaigner urged Newham to strengthen its response to the applicant’s health assessments and the town hall’s air quality mitigation measures, which Stop the MSG describes as “wholly inadequate”.
However, Mr Goddard said the scheme would help rejuvenate the neighbourhood and deliver a state of the art venue, boosting the local economy.
It would see another entrance to Stratford station built as well as improvements to public space in Montfichet Road.
He added that Network Rail has dropped its objections and a £2million contribution to Newham Workplace would be made.
“Our clients remain committed to this project. They look forward to delivering this major investment in Newham and the major benefits it will bring to the community,” he said.
Cllr Carleene Lee-Phakoe, who chaired the meeting, said she felt “slightly bemused” the rest of the scheme’s team did not attend.
Mr Goddard apologised, explaining that he understood he only had five minutes to speak.
On why the applicant had added proposals for 237 dedicated spaces at Stratford International’s car park, Mr Goddard said the focus was to secure bays for blue badge holders and for MSG Sphere to control visitor parking.
LLDC’s planning committee is to decide on the scheme, but has yet to confirm a date.
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