Stratford sphere venue plans officially withdrawn by US firm

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By Jess Warren & PA Media

BBC News

The US company behind a proposed Las Vegas-style “Sphere” venue in east London has withdrawn its plans.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) said it could not participate in a process that was “merely a political football between rival parties”.

In December, Housing Secretary Michael Gove used his powers to review the rejection of planning permission by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

MSG had wanted to build its 21,000-capacity Sphere venue in Stratford.

    In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, MSG said it was “extremely disappointing” that Londoners would “not benefit from the Sphere’s groundbreaking technology and the thousands of well-paying jobs it would have created”.

    The letter said: “I write to confirm that we are officially withdrawing our application from the Planning Inspectorate process.

    “After spending millions of pounds acquiring our site in Stratford and collaboratively engaging in a five-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.”

    A spokesperson for Sphere Entertainment, a sister firm to MSG, added that it was committed to working with “forward-thinking cities around the world” who were “serious” about bringing the project to their communities.

    MSG had planned to build its illuminated sphere venue in Stratford on a 4.7 acre (1.9 hectare) site that has sat empty since it was last used as a temporary coach park during the 2012 London Olympics.

    It would have had the highest resolution LED screen on Earth, along with immersive sound systems to host concerts, shows and sporting events.

    Mr Khan ruled in November that the Sphere would cause “significant light intrusion” to neighbours and could not be built.

    The mayor added that it would be “bulky” and “unduly dominant” and would not “constitute good and sustainable design”.