London Mayor Sadiq Khan rejects planning application for Populous-designed Sphere in Stratford

You get a sphere! You may get a sphere! You don’t get a sphere… A ruling yesterday from London mayor Sadiq Khan may have confirmed the fate of London’s version of a Populous-designed Sphere: Decision refused.

Like the recently opened Las Vegas sphere, and a potentially forthcoming West Hollywood iteration, London has been circling plans for its own globe-shaped entertainment venue for years now. Unlike Las Vegas, a cityscape immune to light and noise pollution, the installation of the LED-screen faced sphere in East London’s Stratford, a neighborhood with an increasing residential and student population, has not been as well-received.

Yesterday, the application from Stratford Garden Development Limited, a subsidiary of the Madison Square Garden Company, and architecture firm Populous was turned down by the mayor. In a letter penned by Khan addressed to the London Legacy Development Corporation, the organization overseeing the development of Stratford’s Olympic Park where the sphere was slated to land, said the proposed design is “contrary to the Development Plan and would prejudice the implementation of the policies within the Development Plan relating to residential amenity, good design, and the conservation and enhancement of London’s heritage.”

Khan’s rejection echoes that of a review of the planning application commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA). Engineering firm WSP was responsible for conducting the report and came to the conclusion the entertainment venue “will be likely to have significant adverse effects on occupiers of premises and the night-time environment.”

In the report, the firm cited various ways the installation of the sphere could affect “human health, wellbeing and safety.” Among these are annoyance, stress, and anxiety, as well as visual discomfort, and fatigue. The impact of the illumination could greatly impact those impacted by migraines and individuals with autism, the report stated.

Renderings for the spherical arena were first unveiled in 2019. Continuous delays have plagued the project with concerns over light pollution and health circulating in the public eye for years.

Michael Gove, the U.K. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, will now weigh in on whether the illuminated structure can be constructed. Earlier this year he issued a holding restriction on the planning application that stunted it from moving forward.

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