A people-led campaign by Newham residents appeared victorious last month, as MSG Sphere is block by Sadiq Khan.
By Noah Enahoro
A difficult year for Newham ends in a victory for people power with the decision by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to block plans to build the MSG Sphere.
The gigantic eyeball-shaped dome planned for the heart of Stratford was abandoned after a long-running campaign by local residents, community groups and political leaders.
On 20 November Khan rejected plans for the 300ft high two billion dollar entertainment venue on the opposite side of the railway tracks
from the Westfield Stratford shopping centre bus station. Days later the American developers admitted defeat and announced they planned to find another city for the dome.
Khan said the dome, proposed by the Madison Square Garden Entertainment company (MSG) which would be as tall as Big Ben and coated in LED advertising screens, was rejected on three grounds: light pollution, lack of “green” credentials, and its impact on heritage sites in the area.
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said: “The Mayor has seen independent evidence that shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents.”
Khan’s decision was welcomed by Newham’s politicians and residents, most of whom have opposed the plans.
Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, called it ‘monumentally significant’. “He has placed the health and well-being of residents living in Newham first,” she said. “We have always argued that the intrusion of the MSG Sphere on the lives of our people will be huge. Today is a monumental victory for the public interest, for democratic accountability, and all Newham residents.”
Nate Higgins and Danny Keeling the two Green councillors for Stratford Olympic Park also welcomed Khan’s intervention.
Higgins said: “We are absolutely delighted that our campaigning on behalf of residents in Stratford Olympic Park alongside Against the MSG Sphere London has paid off. We would not be here today without the work of so many incredible campaigners.”
Councillor Keeling added: “In a housing crisis, and an area with multiple venues already, including the London Stadium, cancelling this eyesore was the correct thing to do.”
The milestone decision follows a five-year campaign led by members of the Against the MSG Sphere London group. They said: “This decision is a testament to the power of local residents and grassroots campaigning.”
Bo Chapman, a long-time member of the group who has lived in Stratford for 26 years, told Newham Voices: “This is a reminder that our voices matter, are powerful, and that there is hope for the ordinary people of Newham.”
Despite recent government intervention forbidding the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), who initially approved the application in 2022, to acknowledge Khan’s decision, MSG Chief Executive James Dolan said the firm would not appeal to reverse Mr. Khan’s decision. “It really is the end of the line for London,” he said, “why doesn’t London want the best show on earth?”
A spokesperson from the entertainment company later added: “Mr Gove’s action, although commendable, still appears to us to be more of the same, and we cannot continue to participate in a process that can be so easily undermined by political winds. “As we said previously, we will focus on the many forward-thinking cities.”