Sphere-Shaped Music Venue Gets Planning Permission In East London

The controversial Madison Square Garden Sphere has significant local opposition

Plans for a large sphere-shaped music venue in Straford, East London have been given a significant boost after being approved this week at a planning committee meeting.

The Madison Square Garden (MSG) Sphere is the brainchild of the New York-Based MSG Company, which also operates the world-famous stadium, and is described by the company as "a state-of-the-art music and entertainment venue that will pioneer the next generation of immersive experiences." Current plans for the venue include a LED video screen all around the sphere, which will be used for advertising.

At a planning committee meeting on Tuesday evening (March 22), the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) – which was set up by the Mayor of London in 2012 to supervise the development of the Olympic Park site – approved designs for the venue, despite widespread local opposition to the idea on account of its size and presence within the local skyline.

The planning committee meeting lasted more than five hours, continuing past midnight, with various figures putting cases forward for and against the new venue. Ultimately, six members of the committee voted in favour of the plans, while another four – all elected representatives – voted against them. Crucially, the plans must still be given final approval by the Mayor of London.

Those who support the building of the venue say that it will boost the local economy and create jobs, both during its construction and its running after. MSG has said that all of those employed to work on and within the venue will be paid the London living wage, and that 35 percent of construction jobs will first be offered to locals.

Paul Westbury, MSG’s Executive Vice President, said the company’s planning application had undergone a "thorough assessment" by the planning committee, and added that the venue would help Stratford become "a global destination for music and technology."

Opposing the plan, however, West Ham MP Lyn Brown called the sphere a "monstrosity," and voiced concerns that it might place a further strain on Straford’s transportation, with the shopping mall and 60,000-seater London Stadium, which is now West Ham United’s football stadium, both nearby.

There is currently no known date for when the MSG Sphere might open if given the full go-ahead.

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