The development of the MSG Sphere London, an entertainment venue to be built in the Stratford area of London, has been paused by Michael Gove, UK housing secretary and Member of Parliament (MP). It is reported that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has decided to issue an Article 31 holding directive over a request it received to call in the planning action.

United States-based The Madison Square Garden Company’s London project, set to be designed by architecture studio Populous, an identical to the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas which is slated to open in September, was approved by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in March 2022. The plans included the 21,000-capacity, 90m-tall Sphere venue whose facade would be covered with more than 1m LEDs and show videos and adverts. But now, the temporary hold by Gove prevents the LLCD and the mayor of London from signing off the scheme of the venue.

According to the reports on Dezeen and Architects Journal, the design would face further scrutiny and an inspector would be appointed to carry out an inquiry if the project is called in under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

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“However”, the department adds in a statement provided to Dezeen, “the issuing of a holding direction should not be taken as an indication as to whether an application will be called in or not. A decision will be made as soon as possible.”

Being a controversial project for Londoners from the start, the venue has been described as a “monstrosity”, a “glowing orb” and an “eyesore”, in a piece published on the Guardian.

Local MP Lyn Brown states as follows: “Stratford does not want to be Las Vegas. The LLDC’s version of the Olympic legacy has become a tyranny.” Residents of the Stratford area of London do not seem to agree on a building designed for “Sin City” which they think does not belong in a densely populated part of the capital.

According to Guardian, local residents, councils and an MP have long opposed the project over concerns that the 21,500-capacity spherical arena will blight the area with light and noise pollution from its huge video and advertising displays.

LLDC planners said the scheme, despite its scale and massing, would establish a strong sense of place at a scale that is not considered to be excessive, taking account of the established scale of surrounding buildings, when approving designs for the venue last March. Still, some 850 residents and opposition groups filed objections ahead of that decision. There were 355 messages backing the scheme.

Another objection and criticism came from a rival, AEG, the owner of the O2, who called the scale of the proposed LED screen on the Sphere’s outside “wholly unprecedented in scale”, in comments issued after the LLDC approved an advertising strategy for the venue’s display in January.

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Alistair Wood, AEG executive vice president for real estate and development in Europe told Architects Journal: “Since these proposals first emerged back in 2017, AEG has consistently raised its objections to the unacceptable impact that this proposal will have on the operation of The O2 and the hundreds of residents who will be even more directly affected.”

A spokesperson for MSG, on the other hand, believes that MSG Sphere will bring “unique entertainment experiences to London and deliver many cultural and economic benefits, including creating thousands of jobs and generating billions of pounds for the local, London and UK economy.”

“MSG is pleased with the progress our planning application is making,” she adds. “We always expected the government to take the opportunity to review our application for MSG Sphere London and their formal notice has absolutely no impact on our plans in any way.”