The four residents of Neo Bankside who sought to make Tate Modern close off part of the 360° viewing platform on the 10th story of the Blavatnik Building, Tate Modern’s £260 million extension opened in 2016, have been denied their wish. Justice Mann handed down his judgment on 12 February dismissing their claim of nuisance and breach of privacy under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
As discussed earlier on this blog, Neo Bankside is a development of luxury flats that is known for its extensive use of glass in its construction. While this use of glass offers its residents great views of London, it also allows others a view in. The residents argued that their lives are on constant view, photographs of their flats have appeared on Instagram and other types of social media, and that Tate Modern visitors have at times waved or made rude gestures towards them. While the Tate Modern has put up signs asking visitors to respect the privacy of its neighbours, and have security patrolling the viewing platform to ensure no photographs are taken, this does not appear to have done much to prevent the continued gazing.
Justice Mann’s judgment goes into much detail concerning the background of the issues and his reasons for dismissing both the nuisance and human right claims. He dismissed the Article 8 claim because the Tate Modern, while a public art gallery, did not satisfy the test to be a public body under the Human Rights Act 1998. Nuisance is a land tort and invasion of privacy can be a nuisance. However the law is not that straightforward. Privacy in the home is protected under Article 8 and so can be considered to form part of the law of nuisance (this is distinct from the claim under Article 8 in its own right). But the natural rights of an occupier do not include freedom from view by neighbours and others. Therein lies the problem.
By choosing to live in flats with floor-to-ceiling windows the residents have “submitted themselves to a sensitivity to privacy.” Furthermore, Mann J 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.” In order to achieve a fair outcome the law of nuisance effectively relies on a little “give and take”.
Justice Mann suggested to the claimants that they make use of the solar blinds built into their properties, install privacy blinds or net curtains, and lastly that they consider the use of tall plants to offer more privacy.
The claimants are considering whether to appeal this decision – and perhaps a visit to the garden centre.