Plans for MSG Sphere Arena Are Unveiled Despite Potential Right to Light Violations

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The US developers behind Madison Square Garden stadium in New York have filed planning applications to construct a major new London venue set to hold 21,500 people. Located in Stratford in the east of the city, the MSG Sphere will be the largest concert arena in the UK when it is built, overtaking both the Manchester Arena and London’s 02 Arena in capacity.

The Madison Square Garden Company first announced that they planned to build the spherical venue on a 1.9 hectare site formerly used as a coach park for the 2012 London Olympics in February 2018, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan giving his support at the time.

Planning documents filed in March 2019 reveal that the structure will be a 90m high spherical complex, featuring the largest and highest resolution LED screen in the world, an adaptive acoustic system, and haptic flooring delivering bass through the floor for spectators to “feel” the experience. In addition, the complex will include a separate, 1,500 person venue for “grassroots and emerging music acts,” as well as cafe, retail, restaurant and nightclub space.

Construction firms Sir Robert McAlpine and McLaren are currently competing for the project, estimated to be worth over £200m.

Residents complain of right to light violation

Despite the plans gaining support from both Sadiq Khan and former Culture Secretary Matt Hancock when they were unveiled last year, some – including local residents and competing venues – have shown opposition. Local residents campaigning against the proposal have expressed concerns that the construction would create light pollution, increase traffic in the area and potentially illegally violate residents’ right to light.

Under English law, homeowners may be able to enforce their proprietary right to maintain the level of natural daylight shed on their homes against a third party developer, should the building works in question threaten to significantly affect this light level. However, developers may in turn be able to seek the support of local authorities to override this right to light, as these authorities are able to either forcibly buy out residents’ rights under the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

Public bodies including Transport for London, the Greater London Authority and the London Borough of Newham have all been consulted on the proposed development.

Developers cite need for more London arenas

Others to voice opposition against the development include competing stadium owners AEG – which own London’s current largest venue, the O2 Arena.

A spokesperson for the company said last month:

“There is a question mark over whether such a venue should be located in east London, so close to existing venues at the Olympic Park – such as the London Stadium and Copper Box – as well as AEG’s own nearby venue, the O2 Arena.”

In its planning application however, MSG counters that London lacks major concert venues of the type it proposes, noting that London’s two major venues – the O2 Arena and Wembley Arena – are dwarfed by New York’s seven. Proposals project that the new venue will create 4,300 jobs for the construction phase and support 3,200 jobs a year after construction, generating an estimated £2.7bn in revenue over 20 years.

Emphasising the projected earning and job creation potential of the stadium, MSG executive vice-president of development and construction Jayne McGivern stated:

“This is an opportunity to take an inaccessible coach park and use it to support thousands of jobs, and billions of pounds of economic benefit.”

Right to light legal claims experts

IBB’s Real Estate Dispute Resolution team regularly advises on issues arising from potential developments, including rights of light claims. To discuss your property development dispute please contact a member of our team on 03456 381381. Alternatively please send an email with your name, contact information and brief details of your property dispute to propertydisputes@ibblaw.co.uk and one of our team will be able to help you.