What is the Stratford MSG sphere? Sadiq Khan rejects plans for controversial London project

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has rejected plans to build a large entertainment arena called "Sphere" on the border of the Olympic Park in Stratford.

The Standard has gathered that Mr Khan made the decision on Monday afternoon to oppose Madison Square Garden Entertainment Company's (MSG) eyeball-shaped dome for three main reasons.

These have to do with worries about how much light pollution it would bring to the people of Stratford, its astronomical electricity costs and consequent lack of "green" credentials, and the effect it would have on local heritage buildings.

But Mr Khan does not have the ultimate word in the MSG Sphere application; Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove will now make the decision.

The controversial mammoth development project in Stratford previously made headlines after the developers of the MSG Sphere offered locals blackout blinds to make up for the glowing images they would be broadcasting from the orb-like structure.

If the application is approved, the new 300ft-high sphere, which is set to broadcast animated adverts for 25 years, will have room for 21,500 spectators and be covered in thousands of LED screens.

The arena would be a replica of the giant concert venue in Las Vegas that went ahead despite complaints from residents in the area.

The project is estimated to cost £800 million.

When will the Stratford sphere project be built?

The MSG Sphere project was approved by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which oversees the future development of the former Olympic Park in Stratford.

The proposals have not been approved by the Mayor of London, so it’s time for the Levelling Up Secretary to make a decision before construction can kick off.

However, in February this year, an Article 31 holding directive was issued by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, preventing the LLDC and Mr Khan from signing off the plans before Mr Gove has decided whether they need to be “called in” for further scrutiny.

If the project is given the green light to start construction, the arena is estimated to take three years to build.

Why is the MSG Sphere controversial?

While the supporters of the project claim that the arena would boost the capital’s economy by £2.5 billion, bringing in £50 million a year to local businesses and creating 1,200 jobs, there are many who are against it.

Firstly, locals are upset about how the gigantic arena might impact the infrastructure of Stratford and the immense light pollution its thousands of screens might cause.

Residents are worried about how the light and the foot traffic will impact their daily lives and homes.

Plus, some campaigners are worried about the Sphere’s potential impact on wildlife, with members of the London Assembly Environment Committee concluding that the arena would produce unacceptable light levels.

Aside from offering residents blackout blinds, the developers have said that they will limit the brightness of the venue according to the time of day.

What has London Mayor Sadiq Khan said about the sphere?

Mr Khan has previously been urged by City Hall politicians to refuse planning permission. In a previously report examining light pollution in London, the London Assembly Environment Committee advised Mr Khan to reject the scheme, “when and if” it is passed back to him, “to prevent light pollution impacts on the surrounding environment and residents”.

After rejecting the project, a spokesperson for Mr Khan said in a statement: "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."