Plans for a giant glowing Sphere in Stratford have been set back after the Mayor of London used his powers to reject the planning application.
A report for the Mayor’s office accepted that the proposed land as an entertainment venue use was broadly supported and the possible contributions towards London’s culture and creative industries and night time economy are acknowledged, the development was blocked because of the impact it would have on surrounding residential housing.
There were also concerns about overcrowding at Stratford station, but the main concern was the plans to cover the outside of the orb with a skin of lights that could be used as a giant advertising screen. Even without adverts, an entire building the size proposed for the orb had raised a lot of concerns locally about light flooding into people’s homes at night.
While the Sphere in Las Vegas has opened to widespread acclaim, and the design is undeniably excellent, there is a major difference between the USA and UK versions.
The Las Vegas Sphere is surrounded mainly by commercial properties, an inward-facing shopping centre on one side, a golf course, a hotel and a multistorey car park on the others. Very little housing would be affected by the lights from the Sphere.
However, while the Stratford site in East London is next to a shopping centre, the other three sides are surrounded by blocks of flats. In places, people’s living rooms are just 50 metres from the Sphere. Further away, even taller flats would also be in the line of sight of the glowing orb.
However, the report accepted by the Mayor of London does suggest that if the overcrowding concerns at the nearby railway station were overcome and the external lighting was not used, then the developer could come back with a fresh application.
There’s also the option for the developer to appeal to the Secretary of State to overrule the Mayor of London by calling in a planning inspector to review the development.
In the end, the Sphere is a very exciting idea for a building, but also very much in the wrong location.