Londoners sink £25m party ship in new blow for capital’s night time economy

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Owners of a £25 million floating entertainment venue have given up on plans to operate it on the River Thames after opposition from local residents.

Oceandiva, an 86m-long boat with room for 1,000 guests, is now heading for “EU waters” after owners concluded that there were too many obstacles to operate it.

Smart Group, the entertainment company that would have managed the boat, said that “the combination of regulatory challenges and infrastructural inadequacies proved too great to overcome”.

Oceandiva, built in a Dutch shipyard and larger than any entertainment boat operating in British rivers, was meant to begin hosting events in the spring of 2023 but has battled to obtain the required licences after a number of setbacks.

Chloe Jackson, Smart Group’s managing director, wrote in a letter that it was a missed opportunity for London, which they estimated would have benefited from £77 million in economic benefits. “Whilst we acknowledge that this may feel like a victory for some local residents and riverside stakeholders, we are sure you can appreciate it is a sad day for the city and, indeed, Smart Group,” she wrote, “as this carbon-neutral, cutting-edge vessel will no longer be redefining events on the River Thames. It is quite simply a missed opportunity.”

Residents had previously complained that the boat was a “battleship” that would wage war on their sleep. Paul Crosbie, an activist living in the historic riverside street Shad Thames, said: “It doesn’t matter whether [the finishing time] is 8pm or 10am, you’ll still have a disturbance. There will also be an impact on the view — it’s like a battleship.

“It’s not that people object to the principle of the boat. It’s just that it’s too big and will cause too much of a disturbance. There are no conditions that are satisfactory.”

The news comes just weeks after the American company behind a proposed huge Las Vegas-style Sphere entertainment venue in east London decided to withdraw its plans following a battle with planners and the Mayor of London.

In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate MSG said it was “extremely disappointing” that Londoners would “not benefit from the Sphere’s groundbreaking technology and the thousands of well-paying jobs it would have created”.

In December, the housing secretary, Michael Gove, used his powers to call in and review the rejection of planning permission by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, for the 21,000-capacity, 300ft-tall structure in Stratford, east London.

However, Sphere Entertainment, a sister firm to MSG, said it had written to Gove advising him of the company’s plan to withdraw its application and to decline to participate in the call-in process.

A spokesperson for the company added it was committed to working with “forward-thinking cities around the world” who were “serious” about bringing the project to their communities.

MSG’s letter to the Planning Inspectorate read: “On behalf of both Stratford Garden Development Limited and Sphere Entertainment, I write to confirm that we are officially withdrawing our application from the Planning Inspectorate process.

“After spending millions of pounds acquiring our site in Stratford and collaboratively engaging in a five-year planning process with numerous governmental bodies, including the local planning authority who approved our plans following careful review, we cannot continue to participate in a process that is merely a political football between rival parties.”