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London’s Tate gallery loses privacy case to luxury flat owners

Tate Modern art gallery in London. — PHOTO BY CATHY ROSE A. GARCIA 

LONDON — Residents of a luxury London block, who are trying to stop visitors peering into their glass-walled apartments from the neighboring Tate Modern art gallery, won their privacy case at the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The owners of four flats in the nearby Neo Bankside development took the Tate, one of Britain’s top tourist attractions, to court after the gallery opened an extension in 2016 featuring a panoramic platform on its top floor, which gives visitors clear views of the inside of some flats.

They applied to London’s High Court for an injunction requiring the Tate to stop visitors from viewing their flats, which one owner said left them “more or less constantly watched”.

In 2019, their case was dismissed by a High Court judge, who suggested they could lower their blinds or install net curtains, and they lost an appeal the following year.

But, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned those decisions by a 3-2 majority and sent the case back to the High Court to determine whether an injunction should be granted, or if the claimants should receive any damages from the Tate.

In the court’s written ruling, Judge George Leggatt said: “The claimants cannot be obliged to live behind net curtains or with their blinds drawn all day every day to protect themselves from the consequences of intrusion caused by the abnormal use which the Tate makes of its land.”

He added that the flats were “under constant observation” from the platform, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, some of whom take photographs and post them on social media.

“It is not difficult to imagine how oppressive living in such circumstances would feel for any ordinary person – much like being on display in a zoo,” the judge said.

The flat owners’ lawyer, Natasha Rees, said in a statement that her clients were pleased and relieved, adding that they looked forward to working with the gallery to find a practical solution which protected all their interests.

A Tate spokesperson said: “We thank the Supreme Court for their careful consideration of this matter.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery attracted more than six million visitors a year, and vies with the British Museum to be the country’s most popular attraction, according to figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. — Reuters

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