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.

(c) Madison Square Garden Company

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.

(c) Madison Square Garden Company


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  1. Niall says:

    Extremely depressing. Complete lack of vision from a tired mayor. My view from Legacy Tower was nearly not just a giant concrete triangle. Now it will remain a giant concrete triangle for the foreseeable future. Not creating jobs, upskilling locals, entertaining millions.

    Just a giant, miserable concrete triangle.

    • adam says:

      I’d take the concrete triangle over relentless advertising. Like the mayor says, build it and reap those employment benefits. Just don’t blast more unavoidable, consumerist ideology into the local environment.

    • ChrisC says:

      What lack of vision? You can’t just plonk something like this in an area that will directly affect the welfare of thousands of people day in day out with it’s bright lights.

      He’s given the developer pointers on things they can do that will turn this from a no into a yes.

      That is vision rather than a hard ‘no’

      BTW Michael Gove – is he also ‘tired’ and ‘lacking vision’? – also put a hold on the planning process for the scheme in February this year.

  2. NG says:

    Niall – & any/everyone else in favour of the Giant Stratford Bollock … have missed something, something important.
    This vast, glowing, flashing dollop woiuld be in full view of any & all the train-drivers approaching Stratford station, whilst they are trying to read the signalling.
    It’s an obvious, direct serious safety hazard & needs killing of – right now.
    I hope it does not revive.

  3. David says:

    Can I just say – excellent headline. Enjoyed that very much. Many thanks!

  4. ChrisMitch says:

    It looks nightmarish, I for one am glad it has been rejected by the mayor.

  5. alistair twin says:

    I agree it’s the wrong location architecturally, though stratford is the right location for the venue as it’s so well connected. (i’m sure they’ll be paying for some of the station upgrades)

    I guess you could put it down by the 02 but then you have to worry about not filling both venues at once. I could see it in Canary wharf which has unused evening capacity.

    The sort of point of the sphere is that you dont need a lot of staging, so they’ll be hoping to use it 300+ days a year i guess, unlike the 02 which needs turn-around time. and they will have imax-type experiences in between shows or during the day I’m sure. So it could generate a LOT of traffic.

  6. MilesT says:

    probably better sites “out west”, with more commercial surrounding it.

    Or maybe even out of London? Maybe Birmingham

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