Dezeen Magazine

MSG Sphere

Michael Gove places Populous' spherical music venue on hold

UK housing secretary Michael Gove has issued an Article 31 holding directive for the MSG Sphere music and esports arena, which was set to be designed by architecture studio Populous and built in Stratford, east London.

The decision to issue an Article 31 holding directive comes after the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities received a request to call in the planning application.

"A Holding Direction restricting the grant of permission has been issued to allow time for the Secretary of State to consider the request," a spokesperson for the department told Dezeen.

The holding direction temporarily prevents the plans for the venue moving forward.

However, the department added: "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."

The holding directive prevents the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) – which had previously approved the plans for the MSG Sphere – and the mayor from signing off on plans for the 90-metre-high spherical venue.

Design could face further scrutiny

If the project is called in under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the design would face further scrutiny and an inspector would be appointed to carry out an inquiry.

The MSG Sphere has been controversial from the start, with 852 objections submitted in opposition to the project. In total, 355 responses were received supporting the proposal, which was designed for the organisation that runs New York's Madison Square Garden (MSG).

Local MP Lyn Brown was among those opposing the London venue, stating that "Stratford does not want to be Las Vegas" and claimed that "the LLDC's version of the Olympic legacy has become a tyranny".

In an opinion piece for Dezeen, writer Anna Minton said that there are issues with the project that relate to democratic representation and accountability.

"The decision was opposed by local elected representatives at Newham and Hackney councils, parliamentary representatives and on the development corporation's board – where it was opposed by four elected members of the largely non-elected board," she said.

Twin sphere venue being constructed in the US

Despite the opposition to the venue, it was set to be built after the LLDC's planning committee voted six to four in favour of the proposal.

The 21,500-capacity venue would be located on a triangular site next to the Westfield Stratford shopping centre and feature a main auditorium placed within the 90-metre-high sphere along with restaurants, cafes and a members' club.

In a comment to Dezeen, a MSG Sphere London spokesperson said the formal notice would not impact the plans for the arena.

"MSG is pleased with the progress our planning application is making," the spokesperson said. "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."

In Las Vegas, a nearly-identical sister venue is currently under construction and scheduled to complete this September.