Meeting Declares proposed MSG Sphere in Newham to be Threat to the Environment and to Public Health.

Everyone knows that the environment in which we live is a major factor in determining the health of our community. Public concerns in Newham over the proposed MSG sphere, a massive 25 000 capacity advertising hoard and entertainment venue , were expressed at a consultation meeting in Stratford last night.

Attended by the Stop the MSG Sphere campaign and over 70 people, the meeting was addressed by a facilitator and by Daniel Davis of the LLDC ( London Legacy Development Corporation ) . From the outset the campaign group expressed unconditional opposition to the project and their concerns were taken up also by local residents.

Questions were raised about the impact of noise and light pollution on the local community, the impact on existing transport infrastructure and the absence of any benefits for the residents living nearby or in adjoining communities who would be subject to massive flashing light adverts and tens of thousands of people converging on the venue from other locations.

According to the local campaign, 90% of residents oppose this and many they spoke to on the doorstep were not even aware of its existence. Instead, MSG have restricted their ‘consultation ‘ process to Westfield Shopping centre ( with people who on the whole don’t even come from the local community ) and to those living only metres from the proposed site. In fact, the impact on student accommodation has been downplayed because they are only temporary residents ! Occupants of the new Legacy Tower are mortified that having invested in living there they will now be on the doorstep of probably the biggest music and entertainment venue in Europe.

The two planning applications for building work and for advertising will be decided by a Board with only a few elected councillors from Newham and the other two boroughs affected and other ‘Independent’ members. The site originally bought by Westfield for £9m was sold to MSG, an entertainment conglomerate based in Manhattan, for a phenomenal £60m two years later. Instead of considering other options and with no consideration for any beneficial “heritage” in consultation with the local community, the site has instead been earmarked for “leisure”, by which they mean profiteering activities which many in the local community won’t even be able to afford. This fits neatly into the so-called “nighttime economy” and appears to have the backing of Sadiq Khan, London mayor.

MSG have evaded restrictions to lighting levels by redefining the purpose of the structure , so putting people’s health at risk and also acting as a distraction for car, bus and even train drivers. The lighting on the screens on the dome, on the ‘podium’ supporting the structure and on surrounding hoardings, according to a lighting expert at the meeting, will be 7 times the acceptable safe limit. This for a venue open at least 300 days in the year with hours from 11.00am till 4.00 am with the possibility of licensing till 5.00am. The LLDC have four times rejected applications for much smaller advertising hoards on the basis of public health and Safety and yet seem intent on supporting this one. They argue that they can’t take a position on it. Many at the meeting feel that whatever the legal position is, the Council should be seeking grounds to oppose it.

Even though the structure is supposed to be soundproofed, the sound of 20 500 people at such an venue will be heard by residents in those poorer communities close to it. Over the next 10 years the population of north east London is due to increase by 17% and yet we have no infrastructure in place to deal with this, not even a new hospital, and the pressures of such large numbers of temporary visitors to the venue on policing and on health and safety will be enormous. There could be as many as three events daily with many people driving to the venue and with large numbers of Uber drivers clogging up traffic as they do at current football and music events. The similar sphere in New York is surrounded by car parks and is sited completely separate from residential areas.

Newham Council recently declared a ‘climate emergency’ but seems to be acquiescing in a proposal which will see massive increases in plastic pollution and demand for waste disposal strategies as well as sound pollution and light pollution. The screen inside the dome will be 15 000 sq.metres in size! It was pointed out that research has established links between high levels of light pollution and women’s breast cancer. Air pollution with the increased traffic will rocket!

When the ‘facilitator’ began illustrating the decision making structures there was uproar when MSG were placed top of the tree. Such was the resentment when we were told this was private land and it could be used for any purposes associated with ‘leaisure’ there were shouts of ” It’s our land” and interjections about why as a local community we could not have a proper legacy following the Olympic Park promises which would be of real benefit to the local community. When they say that as a town centre we need an entertainment venue, they ignore that fact that this ‘town centre’ is also a residential area whose needs were not being addressed.

Clearly those people present were fiercely opposed not just to the proposal itself and the implications for public health and the environment all in the name of “sustainable development” , but were outraged by the process by which this land had been purchased and effectively appropriated by an unaccountable profiteering international corporation. The London Mayor, following two sets of recommendations from the LLDC and the Board , will make the final decision. The consultation period is ending on 28th. June. The MSG campaign are hoping to put questions to the local council when it next meets. Please send your objections to planningenquiries@londonlegacy.co.uk and copy in mayor@london.gov.uk using references 19/00097/FUL and 19/00098/ADV. Also contact the campaign group if you want to help out by emailing stopMSGLondon@gmail.com or find them at facebook.com/groups/StopMSGSphere

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