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Prying eyes: Neighbors win privacy feud with UK Tate gallery

LONDON (AP) – The UK Supreme Court says people living in glass houses also have a right to privacy.

LONDON (AP) – The UK Supreme Court says people living in glass houses also have a right to privacy.

The court ruled on Wednesday that a viewing platform at London’s Tate Modern art gallery made residents of luxury glass-walled apartments next door feel like animals in a zoo and impeded the “normal use and enjoyment” of their homes.

The judges overturned previous lower court rulings that had sided with the Tate Modern in the long-running privacy dispute between the gallery – one of London’s biggest tourist attractions – and residents of four apartments in the neighboring Neo Bankside complex.

Judge George Leggatt said the platform is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year who “often take photos of the interiors of the apartments and sometimes post them on social media”.

“It is not difficult to imagine how oppressive life under such circumstances would be for any ordinary person – akin to being on display in a zoo,” he wrote in the court’s majority decision.

“There is no doubt that the viewing and photographing taking place from the Tate building constitutes a material interference with the normal use and enjoyment of the plaintiffs’ property.”

The court ruled that the gallery violated “the common law of private harassment.” Three judges supported the majority decision and two disagreed.

Tate Modern opened in 2000 in a former power station on the south bank of the River Thames. It helped transform the surrounding Bankside neighborhood from a backward riverfront into an arts and nightlife hub dotted with luxury apartment towers.

The viewing terrace is part of a pyramid-shaped extension of the gallery that opened in 2016 and has more than 5 million visitors a year. Neo Bankside was completed a few years earlier.

Lawyers for local residents have argued that the 10th-floor platform, which is used by more than half a million gallery visitors annually, constitutes a “relentless” invasion of residents’ privacy. They said gallery-goers subjected the apartments to “intense visual scrutiny,” with some using binoculars and zoom lenses to get a better look.

The gallery said residents could solve the problem by drawing their blinds or putting up curtains – and judges at the High Court and Court of Appeal agreed.

But the Supreme Court found the observation deck was an “abnormal” use of the Tate Modern property, and the harried residents were right.

“The plaintiffs cannot be required to live behind curtains or with the blinds drawn every day to protect themselves from the consequences of an intrusion caused by the Tate’s abnormal use of the property,” the judges said.

Local residents had asked for the gallery to shield their homes or pay damages. The Supreme Court referred the case back to the High Court for the appropriate appeal.

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

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