Sadiq Khan urged to refuse planning permission for MSG Sphere
Sadiq Khan is being urged by City Hall politicians to refuse planning permission for a controversial entertainment venue in east London, amid concerns over its impact on wildlife.
Members of the London Assembly environment committee have warned the proposed MSG Sphere - a ball-shaped 21,500-seater arena and 1,500-capacity nightclub on a former Olympic coach park close to Stratford station - would produce unacceptable light levels.
The project, backed by Madison Square Garden Entertainment, received permission from the London Legacy Development Corporation in 2022, but still requires sign-off from the Mayor.
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.
In a new report examining light pollution in London, the environment committee urged Mr Khan to refuse the scheme permission, “when and if” it is passed back to him, “to prevent light pollution impacts on the surrounding environment and residents”.
The recommendation was supported by five of the seven committee members. Two Conservatives chose not to support it, citing concerns around pre-determining live planning applications.
The report also called for the Mayor to devise a light pollution strategy for the capital, noting there was “strong evidence of the detrimental impacts of artificial light at night on the migration, reproduction and feeding patterns of bats, birds and insects”.
A spokeswoman for Mr Khan did not directly respond to the committee’s recommendation, but said the Mayor already asks boroughs to develop their own night-time strategies to address “all aspects of life at night”.
A spokesman for the MSG Sphere declined to comment. The project’s website says “several steps” will be taken to reduce light pollution, including set operating hours and “fully-programmable” exterior lighting.
Zack Polanski, a Green member of the London Assembly and chair of the environment committee throughout its investigation, said: “The damage light pollution is causing to our environment is something that has gone unnoticed for far too long.
“These issues are exacerbated by the fact there is no national strategy in place, and the Mayor has an opportunity here to make a real difference and to set the standard nationally.”
He added that the committee’s investigation had “highlighted the damage artificial light can have, and the threat it poses to wildlife and the biodiversity of London”.