The owners of four flats in a “world-class development” on the South Bank had taken the art gallery to the High Court in an attempt to stop “hundreds of thousands of visitors” looking into their homes from the Tate’s viewing platform.
Their barrister claimed some of these visitors were “using binoculars and zoom lenses” to peek into their properties – and “don’t abide by the norms of behaviour that in everyday life protect the privacy of people in their home”.
But trustees of the Tate Gallery fought back – and argued that disgruntled residents in the Neo Bankside complex could simply “draw the blinds” if they wanted to avoid intrusion.
The board of trustees said its museum’s platform provided a “unique, free, 360-degree view” of the capital.
Dismissing the residents’ claim, Mr Justice Mann said: “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.”
A solicitor acting for the homeowners said they were now considering filing an appeal.
Natasha Rees, partner and head of property litigation at Forsters, who acted for the claimants, said: “Whilst we are pleased that the law of nuisance has been expanded permitting a breach of privacy to lead to a nuisance claim, we are extremely disappointed with today’s result.
“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.
“We are considering an appeal to the Court of Appeal.”
The claimants had been seeking an injunction which would require the gallery to prevent the public looking at their flats by “cordoning off” parts of the platform or installing a screen to stop what they called a “relentless invasion of their privacy”.
Following the ruling, a Tate spokesman said the platform was “an important part of Tate Modern’s public offer and we are pleased it will remain available to our visitors”.
He added: “We continue to be mindful of the amenity of our neighbours and the role Tate Modern has to play in the local community. We are grateful to Mr Justice Mann for his careful consideration of this matter.”
The judge in the case said that the “largely complete” view that gallery visitors had of the homes was down to the “complete glass walls of the living accommodation”.
He said residents of the “particularly sensitive property” were “operating in a way which has increased the sensitivity”.
Mr Justice Mann said homeowners could take “some remedial steps” and that they could “lower their solar blinds” or “install privacy film or net curtains”.
He added: “It is unusual for a nuisance claim to be met by the defendant saying that the claimant could take remedial steps to avoid the consequences of the act, but this is an unusual case.”