Business News Legal Live Business

AEG hits out as MSG’s big new Sphere venue in London gets planning approval

By | Published on Thursday 24 March 2022

MSG Sphere

Live music giant AEG has hit out at the London Legacy Development Corporation after it granted permission earlier this week for that big old spherical venue to be built alongside the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London.

It’s AEG rival MSG that wants to build the new venue, to be known as the MSG Sphere. Based on a similar venue it is already constructing in Las Vegas, the Sphere would be a super high-tech operation inside and out. On the outside, the building would be covered by an LED ‘skin’ that displays videos and adverts for as much as sixteen hours a day.

MSG first unveiled its plans for a London version of the Sphere venue back in 2018. Those plans proved controversial as they were developed and shared with the LLDC planning committee – whose approval was needed – with various politicians and community groups, as well AEG, opposing the construction of the new venue on the Stratford site that has been selected.

One argument against the plan is that there are already two significant venues in the Olympic Park – the London Stadium and Copper Box – while The O2, operated by AEG, is just a few tube stops away. If events were to take place at all those venues on the same day that would put a lot of pressure on local transport infrastructure, in particular Stratford Station and the Jubilee Line that runs through Stratford and also services The O2.

Others have been more critical about that LED skin which will illuminate the surrounding area sixteen hours a day. While that might be appropriate for downtown Vegas, some argue, it’s more problematic on a site overlooked by hundreds of residential properties.

And while some like the idea of Stratford becoming an entertainment hub – still dreaming of what some thought would be possible in the wake of the 2012 Olympics – critics argue that those dreamers are forcing that ambition on local residents who are already well connected by public transport to cultural and entertainment institutions across London, and who would rather not have ads beamed into their houses most of the day.

However, despite all that criticism, it seemed quite likely that MSG’s plan would be approved when the LLDC’s planning committee met to make a decision on the proposals this week. Partly because the LLDC was set up in the wake of the Olympics to ensure that the big sporting event would make a long-term impact on East London, which means it’s particularly enamoured with the ‘entertainment hub Stratford’ concept. Plus the Corporation’s planning officers had recommended approval last week.

Welcoming the decision, a spokesperson for MSG said: “We are pleased that the planning committee voted in support of our vision for MSG Sphere. Throughout this process we have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, and are grateful for their collaboration, which is reflected in our detailed proposal. We now look forward to progressing on to the next steps in the approval process”.

Conversely, a spokesperson for AEG said: “We believe the LLDC has made the wrong decision to resolve to grant approval for the MSG Sphere planning application in the face of strong objections from local residents, local community groups, ourselves and the local council, Newham, in which the venue will sit”.

AEG insists that it isn’t against new competition in the London entertainment market, it just doesn’t want a big new venue so near to The O2 that shares the same transport infrastructure. “A venue should not be located so close to existing venues at the Olympic Park – such as the London Stadium and Copper Box – as well as The O2″, its spokesperson reiterated yesterday.

“It is imperative”, they went on, “that MSG’s proposals do not add to congestion or overcrowding in the area, including on the public transport network, especially the Jubilee Line which is critical for the movement of guests to and from The O2”.

The venue still needs approval from London mayor Sadiq Khan, and there are still some technicalities to be dealt with regarding all the video content and advertising that will be carried on that LED skin.

“Although the committee has resolved to grant permission for the main Sphere application, there will need to be a further decision to approve the Sphere’s advertising proposal”, AEG’s spokesperson added yesterday.

“The committee expressed concerns about granting a 25 year advertising consent without any recourse should the bright and moving illumination blight residents. Therefore, there will indeed be another vote on the MSG Sphere’s advertising proposal before consent can be granted, and so the committee’s important job is by no means done”.

The spokesperson then added: “If it comes to it, we will be calling on the mayor of London to uphold his election promise to do what’s best for Londoners, including the residents of Newham who are having this huge development forced on them, by directing refusal”.