Stratford scheme was at centre of planning row with US backer MSG Entertainment vowing to take proposal to more ‘forward-thinking cities’
Plans for the MSG Sphere venue in Stratford have been pulled by the US client behind it.
The 21,500-seat scheme in east London had been called in last month following communities secretary Michael Gove’s decision to put the plans on ice for a second time by blocking a move by London mayor Sadiq Khan in November to reject the scheme.
Khan’s decision had overruled a vote by the London Legacy Development Corporation to approve the building in March 2022.
In a statement, Sphere Entertainment, which had previously said it was looking at pulling the plug on the project, said: “We have informed Mr Gove that our decision not to move forward with our plans for Sphere in London stands, and we will not be participating in the call-in process.
“We would like to thank all of those who worked earnestly to bring this project to London. We are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with forward-thinking cities around the world who are serious about bringing this next-generation entertainment experience to their communities.”
In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, Richard Constable, the global head of government affairs and social impact at Madison Square Garden Entertainment, added: “After spending millions of pounds acquiring our site in Stratford and collaboratively engaging in a 5-year planning process with numerous governmental bodies, including the local planning authority who approved our plans following careful review, we cannot continue to participate in a process that is merely a political football between rival parties.
“It is extremely disappointing that Londoners will not benefit from the Sphere’s groundbreaking technology and the thousands of well-paying jobs it would have created.”
Gove had already put the first question mark over the approval by issuing an Article 31 holding directive last February to temporarily prevent it going ahead.
Designed by Populous, the 90m-tall spherical venue, a smaller version of a scheme completed in Las Vegas, had been highly controversial since its inception due largely to its facade, which would have been entirely covered in giant triangular LED panels displaying advertising.
Khan had described the proposals as “nuisance-generating” in his rejection order and had said the extent of external illumination on the building would “cause significant light intrusion resulting in significant harm to the outlook of neighbouring properties, detriment to human health, and significant harm to the general amenity enjoyed by residents of their own homes”.
MSG declined to comment further but its decision now leaves a question mark over the future of the remaining part of the team it put together to deliver the job.
The most high-profile appointment was that of Ian Feast, former COO of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, who joined in 2022 to head up delivery.
But last year Grant Findlay, who also joined left MSG in 2022, left to return to Sir Robert McAlpine while Mike O’Donnell, who left McAlpine in 2019 after more than a decade to join MSG, returned to the firm in the role of commercial managing director.
The job to build the Sphere would likely have been only let as a construction management job with Mace, Sir Robert McAlpine and McLaren all reportedly interested.
MSG’s first Sphere scheme opened in Las Vegas at the end of September last year – two years late and costing nearly $1bn (£825m) more than its original budget.
Designed by Populous and project managed by RLB, Aecom was appointed general contractor to the job in summer 2019 but was removed the following year with MSG becoming general contractor after costs ballooned.