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US developer cancels plans for London Sphere

US developer cancels plans for London Sphere

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The US developer behind the Las Vegas-style Sphere Arena in London's former Olympic Park has withdrawn its plans after the mayor of the British capital decided to block the music venue.

In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, the state agency Madison Square Garden Entertainment, owned by US businessman James Dolan, said it “will not continue to participate in a process that is merely a political football between rival parties.” .

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, blocked the planning application for Sphere in November last year, arguing that the proposal would cause “unacceptable harm” to residents in east London.

The 90-metre-tall spherical music and entertainment venue in Stratford, where London hosted the Olympics in 2012, was covered in illuminated screens capable of carrying advertisements and videos throughout the day and into the evening.

Residents objected to these plans, citing the danger of light and noise pollution.

MSG built a similar field in Las Vegas at a cost of $2.1 billion. The venue opened last year with a series of popular concerts by U2, which used indoor screens to project images around the audience.

MSG said in the letter that it was “extremely disappointing” that London “will not benefit from Sphere's pioneering technology and the thousands of well-paid jobs it could have created”.

The developer said it had spent “millions of pounds to acquire our site in Stratford and collaboratively engage in a five-year planning process with numerous government bodies”.

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It has been in talks with other global cities about a new location for its next space since a planning application was blocked last year.

MSG's move to formally withdraw its plans will raise questions about how welcoming London is to overseas investment. A report by consultancy EY for MSG said the Sphere project would have generated up to 3,200 jobs across the UK, and £2.5bn for London's economy, in its first 20 years.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove was due to decide whether to call Khan's decision for review this year.

Sphere Entertainment, which is owned by MSG, said: “We have informed Mr Gove that our decision not to proceed with our plans for Sphere in London stands, and we will not participate in the communication process.”

The company added that it “continues to work collaboratively with forward-thinking cities around the world that are serious about bringing the next-generation entertainment experience to their communities.”

The venue – which would have hosted 21,500 people – attracted opposition from local bodies such as Newham Council, as well as entertainment group AEG, which owns the rival O2 venue on the other side of the River Thames.

Last year, in letters to Gove and Khan, AEG described the ball as a “massive, glowing advertising ball”.

In response to MSG's decision, a spokesperson for Khan said: “London is open to investment from all over the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious and innovative entertainment venues in our city.

“As part of the consideration of the planning application for MSG Sphere, the Mayor saw independent evidence that showed that the proposals would cause an unacceptable negative impact on local residents. This included the negative impacts of significant external lighting.

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The government refused to comment.