East London: Public housing not MSG Sphere

Niall Mulholland, East London Socialist Party

The monstrous MSG Sphere, which would be built in the Maryland/Stratford area of east London, took a decisive step closer to being realised on 22 March. The enormous new Vegas-style music venue will have events throughout the day and night.

It was opposed by most local councillors who sit on the London Legacy Development Corporation, but it went through on the approval of unelected appointees. The final say now lies with London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan.

A large public turnout of local activists at the planning meeting, including the Socialist Party, were told by security at the planning meeting that we were not allowed to unfurl and photograph a banner from the campaign opposing the sphere.

Stratford station is already the busiest in London. The station and local area will not cope with the daily surge of over 60,000 people, and 10,000 more car and taxi trips. Newham already has some of the worst air pollution in Britain. 7% of deaths in the borough are caused by air pollution.

The outer surface of the huge sphere will be used for advertising, causing unprecedented light pollution. Outrageously, developers have said that local residents should use “blackout blinds”. They also ludicrously claim that the 24-hour advertising is “freestanding art”.

This proposed site could have been used for desperately needed public housing and community facilities. Newham has one of the longest housing waiting lists in the country and some of the worst overcrowding.

The site was public land until it was sold to Westfield, with a huge shopping centre in Stratford, for £9 million in 2015. In 2017, Westfield sold the site to MSG for £60 million.

Sadiq Khan must feel the pressure of Newham residents, with protests and demonstrations. Maryland resident, Socialist Party member Ferdy Lyons, will be standing for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the local elections on 5 May, firmly opposing the MSG Sphere.