Tate Modern successfully defends ‘invasion of privacy’ case to save viewing platform

On Tuesday, a claim by neighbouring residents to close part of Tate Modern’s 360-degree viewing platform was dismissed by the High Court.

Located a little over 34 metres away from the viewing platform, the five claimants live in four glass-walled apartments, worth up to £3.65 million each. Some of the residents have battled Tate Modern since the viewing platform was opened in 2016 as part of the £260 million Blavatnik Building extension, which was granted planning permission prior to the Neo Bankside apartments.

In the High Court claim, the residents alleged that Tate visitors were looking into their homes from the viewing platform, and requested that the gallery “cordon off” parts of the platform or “erect screening“. One resident compared the invasion of privacy to living in a zoo. Another home-owner, Claire Fearn, insisted she was left feeling “sick to her stomach” after visitors waved and made obscene gestures.

The claim was dismissed on Tuesday by Mr Justice Mann. In his judgment, Mann stated the residents knowingly bought properties with floor-to-ceiling windows and have “submitted themselves to a sensitivity to privacy.” Mann further added “these properties are impressive, and no doubt there are great advantages to be enjoyed in such extensive glassed views, but that in effect comes at a price in terms of privacy.”

Guy Fetherstonhaugh QC, who represented the Tate, believed the case proposed to “deny to the public the right to use the viewing platform for its intended purpose, merely to give the claimants an unencumbered right to enjoy their own view“.

Residents have been strongly advised by the judge to “lower their solar blinds”, “install privacy film”, or place some tall plants near the windows. However, the court admitted that for the home-owners these preventative steps would ultimately “detract from their living conditions”.

In response to the judgment, the residents’ lawyer, Natasha Rees, commented that they were “extremely disappointed” with the result, and said that “the limited steps taken by the Tate to prevent visitors viewing into my clients’ apartments are ineffective and both my clients and their families will have to continue to live with this daily intrusion into their privacy.” The residents are now considering an appeal.

A spokesperson for Tate said, “we continue to be mindful of the amenity of our neighbours and the role Tate Modern has to play in the local community.” It has made attempts to prevent visitors from photographing the flats, hiring security guards to patrol the platform and discourage people from taking photographs, and erecting notices asking visitors to respect their neighbours.

The judgment is available here and our previous post on the case is available here.

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