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‘What we’re really giving permission to is a whacking great advertising screen’: Newham objects to revised plans for MSG Sphere a second time

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:27 17 February 2020

A computer-generated image of the proposed MSG Sphere in Stratford. Picture: MSG

A computer-generated image of the proposed MSG Sphere in Stratford. Picture: MSG

MSG

Newham has objected for a second time to plans for a 21,500 capacity entertainment venue in Stratford.

The patch of land known as Compound B, formerly part of Westfield, which MSG bought for £72million. Picture: Google SatelliteThe patch of land known as Compound B, formerly part of Westfield, which MSG bought for £72million. Picture: Google Satellite

Revised planning documents for the MSG Sphere, submitted to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), include a new station entrance for Stratford Station in Montfichet Road to "relieve congestion"; the removal of some digital displays and a crossing at Angel Lane.

But Newham Council objected to the updated plans at a public meeting at Old Town Hall, Stratford, on Tuesday, February 11. LLDC is the planning authority deciding the scheme.

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) wants to build a 90 metre high, live music hub on 4.7 acres of land west of Angel Lane.

Plans include an auditorium, concert hall, nightclub, members lounge, restaurants and shops, and be covered in a "skin" of LED lights which would see images including adverts displayed on its surface.

CGI of the proposed MSG Sphere. Picture: MSGCGI of the proposed MSG Sphere. Picture: MSG

The hub's impact on traffic, road safety, congestion, cycle parking, air quality and light emitted by the sphere's surface are among the council's concerns.

Newham also wants 50 per cent of jobs at the completed venue to be for people living in the borough. MSG's bid promises 35pc for residents from Newham and neighbouring boroughs.

MSG has proposed to pay Newham Workplace £2.1million through the draft section 106 agreement.

Cllr Julianne Marriott said: "What we're really giving permission to is a whacking great advertising screen."

She asked how MSG knew the Sphere would succeed saying London Stadium didn't appear to be successful as an entertainment venue.

MSG's Andy Young said: "It's a billion pound investment in Newham. Revenue is needed from advertising, but it's delivering a unique entertainment venue. London Stadium competes with other venues like it. MSG has particular content."

Pushed to say whether it was a viable scheme without advertising, Mr Young said: "It's a really important part of the project."

Newham would have no say over what was advertised, but could determine how long ads are displayed.

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Lindesay Mace from Stop MSG Sphere welcomed Newham's objections, but added the campaign group's members felt disappointed the council had accepted MSG's argument the hub is made of a screen rather than a façade. She claimed that as a result MSG can avoid limits on upward sky glow limits.

MSG argued that output from the venue's LED lights will be adjusted throughout the day so as not to disturb neighbours. The "skin" wouldn't display flashing or fast moving images either.

Ms Mace praised Newham for calling MSG out after it "erroneously" declared the development is in outer London and therefore would have a neutral impact on air quality.

"Setting air quality neutral as the goal implies that the current air quality in the borough is acceptable, which it is not," she said.

The London Plan 2016 specifies that Newham is in inner London when it comes to planning. An updated air quality assessment issued to LLDC and Newham appears to show the Sphere remains neutral.

Ms Mace further questioned how valid MSG's public consultations had been, claiming the group had only seen young people asked about the scheme.

A freedom of information request showed consultant firm DP9, acting for MSG, tried to stop the LLDC holding recent public consultation events, Ms Mace said.

Councillors heard MSG carried out an opinion poll of more than 1,000 people with a mobile exhibition also touring the borough. More than 43,000 flyers were also distributed.

Stop MSG Sphere questioned MSG's prediction it would take just 15 minutes and only 45 minutes for people to exit the venue when combined with an event at the London Stadium.

But transport planner Will Durden added overnight events had been removed from the original bid. A concept of operations report states the Sphere, under scenarios outlined in the study, can function fully with "professionally planned" crowd management measures.

Ms Mace argued: "We believe it is not possible to sufficiently address the impacts, regardless of how much money MSG contributes to the borough. Therefore we feel the only right response is to issue a complete rejection, as Lyn Brown MP has done."

Mr Young said: "We are trying to create a real destination that is a great benefit to the community, providing a fantastic setting for an entertainment venue unlike anything in the rest of the world."

Planning director, Amanda Reid, asked councillors not to consider potential antisocial behaviour from Uber drivers waiting for customers in streets surrounding the venue when considering the bid.

It followed mention of drivers peeing in streets around London City Airport while they wait for customers during the meeting.

Councillors voted unanimously in support of Newham's objections based on a report which Ms Reid defended as "robust based on the information provided".


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