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AEG again opposes MSG’s London Sphere proposal ahead of key planning meeting

By | Published on Monday 14 March 2022

MSG Sphere

Live giant AEG has again called on the London Legacy Development Corporation to deny planning permission to its rival MSG which still wants to build one of its big old Sphere venues in Stratford. AEG has made the call ahead of a committee meeting next week to consider MSG’s planning application.

MSG’s plans to build a high-tech new venue alongside East London’s Olympic Park were first unveiled in 2018. Very similar to another venue MSG is constructing in Las Vegas, the Sphere venues are super high-tech inside and out. On the outside, the spherical building would be covered by an LED ‘skin’ that displays videos and adverts for as much as sixteen hours a day.

Various groups have opposed the venue plans as MSG’s planning application has gone through the motions. That includes local residents, politicians and, of course, AEG, which operates the nearby O2 venue complex at North Greenwich.

For its part, AEG insists that it doesn’t oppose healthy competition in the London entertainment market. But, it says, MSG’s proposed new Sphere would sit alongside the venues already based in the Olympic Park – including the London Stadium and Copper Box – as well as being just three Jubilee Line stops away from The O2.

Summarising its opposition to the MSG Sphere project ahead of next week’s LLDC meeting, AEG said this morning “the proposed Sphere is too close to other major venues – London Stadium, Copper Box and The O2 – and therefore the crowds will pose a serious and dangerous impact on local transport infrastructure”.

“As a highly experienced venue operator in London, and world-leading venue and events business that has safely welcomed over 70 million people to and from The O2 since opening in 2007”, it continued, “AEG is particularly concerned that MSG’s analysis of the potential transport impact remains incomplete and unclear”.

Going into the nitty gritty of the transport concerns, it went on: “The safe and efficient movement of visitors to and from The O2 relies heavily on there being sufficient capacity on Jubilee Line trains when they reach North Greenwich tube station as it is the only underground line connecting the Greenwich Peninsula to the rest of London”.

“MSG Sphere crowds will depart Stratford heading west at the same time as visitors departing from events at The O2 – and in worst-case scenarios from London Stadium events as well. This would leave no capacity on the trains at North Greenwich for the arena’s visitors, leading to transport chaos and the risk of visitors missing onward connections home and becoming stranded”.

“Despite this potential impact being identified”, AEG added, “MSG are unwilling to agree to restrictions on the operation of the Sphere in order to mitigate this impact. Nor are they willing to provide any additional train services”.

Honing in on the other complaints made by other groups that oppose the MSG Sphere, AEG said: “The exterior of the MSG Sphere is an area of two hectares and more than 90 metres in height – broadly the height of St Paul’s Cathedral – comprising a digital display of over a million LEDs”.

“Yet there is no qualified professional assessment of the potential health and wellbeing effects of light, moving images, and visual distraction to local people, including vulnerable groups and children, or specialist assessment of the health and amenity implications of the advertising façade”.

AEG has also raised concerns about the long drawn out and complex planning application process itself, noting that the decision is being made by the LLDC – set up in the wake of the 2012 London Olympics and reporting into the mayor of London – rather than the local council.

“Concern has also been raised”, it went on, “that due to the protracted application period, and the drip feed of documentation with over 2000 separate documents and representations online, the enormous scale of the submission has made it impossible for residents and affected parties to access all of the relevant information to properly understand the implications of what is proposed”.

Concluding, a spokesperson for AEG said: “We are calling on the LLDC to refuse MSG’s application for a new venue in Stratford and encourage the mayor of London to formally oppose this project in order to protect Newham’s residents and existing businesses from this inappropriate development”.