by Angharad Hillier, Newham and East London Socialist Party
Residents of the East London borough of Newham have celebrated the recent news that Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan has blocked the proposal for the development of the giant MSG Sphere in Stratford. The proposal will now be passed to communities secretary Michael Gove.
Sadiq Khan has cited issues with light pollution and possible harm to local residents — issues that were raised by campaigners and local councillors when the proposals were first made public and planning application was approved by London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). These concerns were largely ignored. In fact, it was reported at the time of the initial proposal that residents were outrageously advised to use ‘black-out blinds’ by developers.
Stratford is one of London’s busiest stations. Within a very short distance of each other, the area already ‘boasts’ the Westfield Shopping Centre, the Copperbox Arena, the London Stadium and the Olympic Park. Campaigners have pointed out that an additional gigantic arena could not only be detrimental to the wellbeing of the residents of the area but may lead to dangerous overcrowding of the area and serious congestion on the roads.
Public health issues remain a pressing concern for the residents of Newham — particularly with the development of the Silvertown Tunnel, which community activists and members of the Socialist Party have campaigned against. Newham remains a dangerously polluted area, with residents exposed to levels of airborne particle matter that is 36% greater than World Health Organisation guidelines. The local council’s own website tells us that 96 residents die a year from the effects of pollution.
Members of the Socialist Party have always maintained that the land would be better used for affordable housing, which is lacking in Newham. The area has seen a great deal of recent development with very few affordable elements for local people.
The power of the recent protests against the war in Gaza must not be underestimated in this decision – particularly locally, as it was discovered that local Labour MP Lyn Brown did not vote for a ceasefire. Anger is increasing in what has always been a safe Labour seat.