Plans for a massive Las Vegas-style “sphere” entertainment venue next to Stratford station that would rival the O2 have been rejected by Sadiq Khan.
The London mayor decided to block the giant eyeball-shaped dome proposed by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Company (MSG) on three key grounds, relating to light pollution, its huge electricity bill and associated lack of “green” credentials, and the impact it would have on heritage sites in the immediate area.
However, Khan does not have the last say, and a final ruling is set to be made by the communities secretary, Michael Gove.
The impact of a 21,500 venue on Jubilee Line services through North Greenwich was raised by objectors, who feared that Stratford station would struggle to cope with another major attraction alongside the London Stadium and the Westfield shopping centre.
Greenwich Council was among the objectors, although its fears that the venue would affect views from Greenwich were rejected by City Hall. AEG, the operator of the O2, said the site was the wrong location for a new arena.
A spokesperson for the mayor said: “London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, 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 shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents.”
MSG sources said it was not abandoning hopes of opening in London but that would be considering its options. Other world cities have expressed interest in hosting a Sphere, with a memorandum of agreement already signed with the South Korean city of Hanam.
A Sphere Entertainment spokesperson said: “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 those.”
The Sphere, designed by architecture firm Populous, would be a copy of the Madison Square Garden Sphere in Las Vegas, a $2 billion arena which played host to U2 last month and was used during last weekend’s grand prix.
The London Sphere would be covered in LED panels and would stand almost 100m high and 120m wide. It would be built immediately to the east of the Olympic Park, effectively on the opposite side of the railway tracks from Stratford City bus station. The LED panels would display moving images, artistic content and branded advertising across the entire façade of the building.
MSG had promised a new entrance to Stratford station and new bridges and pedestrian connections across the site.
But the detailed decision from City Hall showed that Khan, who is able to intervene in large planning applications, accepted his planning officers’ concerns about “significant light intrusion resulting in significant harm” to neighbouring properties.
The City Hall documents also revealed the Sphere was considered a “detriment to human health” which could cause “significant harm” to hundreds of Stratford residents.
Greater London Authority officers had commissioned an independent expert review of the applicant’s environmental statement in order to assess the concerns about light pollution.
The experts, WSP, “identified significant errors and omissions” in the applicant’s assessment, according to City Hall. This included not undertaking the measurements correctly and in line with UK guidance.
The size of the Sphere would make it a “bulky, unduly dominant and incongruous form of development” and cause harm to the setting of 16 heritage buildings, including the Grade II* listed Stratford Theatre Royal and three conservation areas.
The London Legacy Development Corporation, which determines planning applications in the Olympic Park, gave its approval in March last year. Newham Council had opposed the plans.
Green Party councillors on Newham council, and the party’s London mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett, had called on Khan to block the scheme.
Zack Polanski, a Green member of the London Assembly, said: “Stratford is not Las Vegas. It is a community of Londoners who didn’t think they’d soon live alongside a giant glowing orb.”
Unmesh Desai, a Labour member of the London Assembly for the City and east London, said: “I’m very pleased – it’s great news for not just Stratford, but residents in all four boroughs around the park. It was the wrong concept in the wrong place – a monstrosity of an application.
“It also betrays the Olympic legacy, which was all about education, culture, leisure … This application was a negation of the Olympic spirit.”
This story uses material from the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Additional reporting and editing by Darryl Chamberlain.