Tate Modern’s neighbours take ‘invasion of privacy’ case to the Supreme Court

Neighbouring residents of Tate Modern are heading to the Supreme Court over allegations of “relentless” privacy invasion. The five Neo Bankside claimants are battling to close part of the tenth floor viewing gallery that reportedly allows “hundreds of thousands of visitors” to see inside their homes.

Tate’s 360-degree platform is a little over 34 metres away from the Neo Bankside apartment building, a luxury development on London’s South Bank. Forsters, representing the residents, said “photographs are often taken of the insides of the flats and their occupants, with many of them subsequently uploaded onto various social media platforms.

In February 2019, the residents brought their case to the High Court and applied for an injunction requesting that sections of the platform be cordoned off or screened. Although the case was unsuccessful, the residents returned for another round at the Court of Appeal early last year. Their pleas to overturn the ruling were refused and so too was permission for another appeal. However, the Supreme Court recently granted permission to hear the appeal.

At the time of the 2020 judgment, the Court of Appeal concluded that “familiar images of cheek-by-jowl buildings in cities such as London in the medieval and early modern period show that overlooking was commonplace and indeed inevitable when the great cities were being constructed … mere overlooking is not capable of giving rise to a cause of action in private nuisance.”

Opening in 2016, the platform was part of the £260 million Blavatnik Building expansion. Planning permission was granted prior to the construction of Neo Bankside. Tate has since erected signs asking visitors to respect the privacy of their neighbours and partially close the platform in the evenings. Security guards have also been directed to stop visitors photographing the apartments.

According to the minutes of a Tate trustees meeting held on 20 January, the members “were informed that the complainants in the Neo Bankside legal case have been successful in bringing their case to the Supreme Court, with a hearing scheduled for December. Trustees discussed the costs this case has, and will impose, on Tate.”

The residents’ case is expected to be heard at the Supreme Court later this year.

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