Pan-European venue operation AEG Europe has pushed political leaders to block the building of the proposed 21,500-capacity MSG Sphere arena just four miles from AEG’s The O2 arena (cap. 21,000).
Following the decision by London Legacy Development Corporation’s Planning Decisions Committee to give the MSG Sphere the green light, subject to final approval by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, AEG Europe is hoping an intervention by secretary of state for levelling up, housing & communities Michael Gove will derail the project.
AEG said it has written to Gove and Khan urging them to refuse the application. According to the company, Gove has asked local officials “not to grant permission on the applications without specific authorisation” by issuing a holding direction to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). Gove has the jurisdiction to block the development.
AEG claims that the LLDC’s decision-making process has been “seriously flawed” and that the proposed venue will add congestion to the local public transport infrastructure and “blot London’s skyline”.
The project is being led by US-based Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), which runs the legendary 18,600-capacity Madison Square Garden arena in New York. MSG first submitted a planning application to the LLDC in March 2019. It said the Sphere will generate 4,300 jobs during construction, and more than 1,000 full time jobs. The venue was designed by Populous, the architecture firm behind Wembley Stadium. Plans include the arena having a programmable exterior ‘skin’ of LED displays. It is that 360-degree advertising proposal that has met with the most substantial objections.
The proposed project has met with considerable resistance from Newham Council, neighbouring east London boroughs, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the local MP, rail operators, Transport for London, Historic England, and residents.
AEG Europe executive VP real estate and development Alistair Wood said the LLDC’s planning decision process is at odds with the views of the communities that it was set up to support and develop: “With the LLDC due to be disbanded at the end of next year, it would be democratic for the Government to intervene and back the wishes of elected councils in east London who want this inappropriate development blocked to protect the wellbeing of local people and existing businesses.
“Since these proposals first emerged back in 2017, AEG has consistently raised its objections to the unacceptable impact that this proposal will have on the operation of The O2 and the hundreds of residents who will be even more directly affected.”