‘I’ll move if they go ahead with Sphere’: Stratford residents fury at plans to build Las Vegas style venue

Local residents and businesses in Stratford have expressed their concerns over plans to build a 300ft Las Vegas-style sphere in their neighbourhood.

The 21,500 capacity stadium is expected to be covered in animated adverts for the next twenty-five years as some residents say they will move out of the homes they have lived in for years if plans go ahead.

The proposals are yet to be approved by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.

Karina Novic, 30, has recently moved to the area and said she hadn’t been aware of the plans before she moved. She said she’d consider moving if they went ahead: “I don’t think it should be in an area like this. Right now, it’s nice because it’s quite quiet and secluded. I might move if plans go ahead, although it depends on how long construction takes.”

Owner of El Cafecito, a small coffee stand outside Stratford International Station, Ivan Sahagun, 41, said he regularly sees an influx of customers due to games at West Ham stadium and visitors to Westfield shopping centre.

He said: “We don’t need another venue, they could do so many other things with the money, things that will actually help the community.”

The venue has an estimated cost of £800 million, and residents of East Village expressed their disapproval at large corporate developers, pointing to the lack of affordable housing and large numbers of households in poverty.

Newham, the London borough that includes Stratford, is one of the most deprived in the country, with 36% of its residents living in poverty.

There are also concerns about what some perceive as the increasing encroachment of commercial spaces into residential areas. Jolly Ndikumana, 27, is a finance employee and has lived in the area for years. She said Stratford had become “gentrified enough as it is” although she was curious to see what value the development could bring.

“I’m young but if I was to have kids or have a vulnerable person living with me, I don’t know how I’d feel about it all,” she said. “There’s been construction going on around here for years and I was living in front of a construction site and there was never any silence except for Sundays.”

Site supervisor, Victor Ziait, 32, says “there will be a lot of complaints”. Mr Ziait says that the first couple of months of construction can be very noisy and his team working on another development in East Village have had a lot of complaints about the noise of their work. “We’re not that noisy but some people are very sensible and they put in complaints,” he said.

Marissa, another local resident who did not want to be identified by her full name, said she had been living in the area for years and that “no one wants it [the MSG Sphere] here.”

She said the plans were: “Awful, awful, awful. Can you imagine trying to live with that outside your window? If it gets built, I’m going to move. I will not be staying here. They need to put it somewhere without lots of residents.”

Others felt there could be hidden opportunities in the new development. Ibraheem Howell, 23, is a model and says the immersive experiences offered by the MSG Sphere could be exciting for people who loved music. “If it’s anything like the one in Las Vegas, it will be wicked,” he said. “But they shouldn’t force it on residents against their will, and there’s no way it should be a huge billboard. The offers of blinds to shut out light is a joke.”

Assistant headteacher and father-of-two, Andy Wands, 35, said he regularly brought his children to the area to use the parks. “There used to be a space there where children could play, there were climbing frames and play areas for children. That was quite nice,” he said. “For me, its mixed feelings because I would probably attend if there was someone playing who I liked, but not at the expense of residents.”

Jolly Ndikumana, 27, said Stratford was becoming increasingly commercial

West Ham MP Lyn Brown, who opposes the construction has called the sphere “monstrous” and has raised fears about added pressure on local transport.

Stratford Station is the fifth busiest in the UK and currently deals with passengers from Westfield Shopping Centre, West Ham’s 60,000-seater stadium and commuters travelling to and from the centre of London.

She urged Mayor Sadiq Khan and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to intervene to prevent or limit its construction.

The arena’s supporters claim the arena will boost the capital’s economy by £2.5 billion and developers have also said it will create over 1,000 new jobs and bring £50 million a year into local businesses.

Ivan Sahagun, 41, has been running a coffee shop in Stratford for years and says “somebody will burn it down”

Victor Ziait, 32, says “there will be complaints” although his team at another site did their best to keep noise down

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