London Mayor’s Office Rejects Plans To Duplicate Las Vegas Sphere In That City

November 21, 2023 by Dave Haynes

The Mayor of London has rejected plans by the backers of the Las Vegas Sphere to build a duplicate in the east end of that city, right beside the UK’s largest shopping mall.

The development has been rejected for several reason, the main one being the adverse impacts of a giant LED light ball on the residents of single family homes and student housing in the Stratford City area (in the general vicinity of the 2012 Olympics site).

The city said in rejecting the development that the Sphere’s lighting, as well as other lighting associated with the development, would have “significant adverse effects on occupiers of nearby residential premises.” That includes dozens of homes in nearby residential developments and 177 rooms in a student accommodation building.

The mayor’s office also had issues with the amount of energy required to drive the display, when millions of UK households are currently described as being in a fuel poverty situation. There were also concerns about the impact on heritage sites and listed buildings in the area.

The final decision on the development now goes to the UK’s Communities Secretary.

Like the one in Las Vegas that lit up in recent weeks and was a focal point of this past weekend’s F1 race, this Sphere would be covered in LED panels and stand almost 300 feet high.

The response from the Sphere’s backers was more than a bit snippy: “While we are disappointed in London’s decision, there are many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities. We will concentrate on those.” 

While the Westfield Stratford City shopping center looks like one big commercial and mass transport hub, there is a LOT of housing – both new-ish and old – in the immediate area. It is quite a different situation from the Las Vegas location, where there are dozens of large-format outdoor LED displays and anyone living near the Vegas Strip already knew what they were getting into.

The Sphere is undeniably amazing to see, but I wouldn’t want one in my neighbourhood. You could imagine this in Riyadh, Dubai or on the Kowloon waterfront, or in any number of Chinese mega-cities that already have office towers doubling as ad displays. But I can’t really imagine this kind of thing clearing planning approvals in most cities – unless it was way the hell out from developed areas, or if local politicians tended to just rubber-stamp anything that had potential tax revenues and jobs.

A city in Korea – Hanam – is reportedly considering a Sphere. Hanam is in the general orbit of sprawling Seoul.

There are hardware counter-measures – like louvers – that can minimize light trespass and pollution from roadside LED billboards, but those are flat surfaces. I don’t think that would work with this.

  1. Wes Dixon says:

    Well, absolutely! There is nothing uglier than a humongous ball in the center of town (regardless of how much money London stood to make from it).

    My guess it was the same reasoning behind the Mayor’s rejection of the world’s largest ferris wheel … wait … what? … oh, ok … never mind … sorry.

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