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A Right To Privacy? The Tate

Residents of the flats neighbouring the Tate Modern suffered a blow on Tuesday after Mr Justice Mann dismissed their claim brought against the Tate Modern for invasion of privacy by way of nuisance and/or the Human Rights Act 1998.

The flats boast floor-to-ceiling windows, and offer extensive views of London. However, what some of the residents didn’t bargain for was visitors to the Tate Modern’s famous viewing platform (which offers visitors a 360 degree panoramic view of London) – having an uninterrupted view into their flats. As a result of their intrusive neighbours, the residents of the affected flats brought an action against the Tate Modern for an injunction which would require the Tate to close the part of the gallery which infringed on their privacy.

The judge in dismissing the residents’ claim held that whilst the law of nuisance is capable of operating as to protect the privacy of one home against another, this principle could not apply to the case at hand. He stated that the claimants who chose to buy the flats and live in a building with floor-to-ceiling windows “…have created their own sensitivity and will have to tolerate what the design has created”.

The judge suggested that residents consider lowering the solar blinds installed in each flats, installing net curtains or privacy film on the windows or consider placing tall plants in front of the windows. Whilst the judge conceded this may, at least, partially obscure the view that the residents had paid for, this would not be to an “unacceptable degree”.

This case confirms that whilst a breach of privacy may give right to a claim in nuisance in appropriate circumstances, it cannot operate to create an unencumbered right to a view – and so the claimant’s claim was dismissed.

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