A viewing platform at the Tate Modern which allows tourists to overlook a block of £2million apartments is a violation of residents’ privacy, the Supreme Court has heard.

Four owners of luxury apartments in London’s Neo Bankside are waging a legal fight to shut down the gallery that allows museum-goers to view their houses from ‘hundreds and thousands’. 

The Tate first requested an injunction for them in 2017, allowing the Tate to close off parts of the platform and erect screening so that their views are blocked.

They lost their last fight in court of appeal last February when the judge agreed to a prior High Court ruling that suggested that the owners could simply lower their solar blinds or install privacy film (or net curtains) on their property.  

They have since taken the case to the Supreme Court, arguing the platform violates their privacy rights as enshrined in Article 8 of European Convention of Human Rights.

The gallery also opens them to common law nuisance’, which is defined as an unreasonable and substantial interfering with the enjoyment and use of property. 

Neo Bankside first opened in 2012, followed by four years later the viewing gallery located on the 10th floor of Tate’s Switchhouse extension. The trustees stated that it would give ‘a unique 360-degree, free view of London’. 

A photograph taken from the viewing platform in 2016 shows how visitors can see into the apartments at Neo Bankside (pictured, Mail on Sunday's Charlotte Wallace showing how visible residents are)

Photograph taken in 2016 from the viewing platform shows visitors how they can view into Neo Bankside apartments (photo by Mail on Sunday’s Charlotte Wallace, showing the visibility of residents).

This viewing platform appears to offer a great view of the Neo Bankside apartments as shown (pictured). 

A graphic showing the locations of the multi-million pound flats (pictured right) and the viewing platform (left)

An illustration showing where the flats are located (left), and the viewing platform (right).

Flat owner Lindsay Urquhart, 48, arrives at the Court of Appeal in central London for a previous court hearing

Lindsay Urquhart (48), a flat owner, visits the Court of Appeal, central London, for an earlier court hearing

While the Tate attempted to lessen intrusions onto nearby properties, its owners demanded an injunction prohibiting viewing from certain parts of the platform.

One woman claimed that she was a witness to people snapping photos of her, and others making obscene gestures or waving at her.

Tom Weekes, who represented the residents of the Supreme Court, stated that activities creating visual intrusions like ‘watching observation, photographing or filming’ are not considered private nuisances by the Court of Appeal.

He stated that if the Court of Appeal was correct, the Tate could be guilty of nuisances by making use of its tenthfloor walkway as a nightclub, for loud and amplified music, as well as as a garbage storage that releases a horrible smell, harbors insects, or as an installation of art that beams brilliant light into neighboring properties.

The Court of Appeal could have ruled that activities that damage the amenities of nearby properties such as photographing or filming would not be allowed.

It would be possible for the Tate now to put down signs asking people to visit the viewing gallery not to invade their privacy. The Tate’s security staff would then inform visitors that taking pictures of neighbouring flats and their occupants is no longer a problem.

Pictured: The viewing gallery at the Tate Modern, from which visitors can peer into the Neo Bankside apartment block

Pictured: A view gallery of the Tate Modern from which one can see into the Neo Bankside apartment blocks 

A photograph taken from the viewing platform shows how visitors can look directly into the flats at the Neo Bankside development on London's South Bank 

Viewers can see directly through the Neo Bankside apartments on London’s South Bank by taking a photograph from the viewing platform 

The Tate Modern's new Switch House development, with Neo Bankside apartments to the left of the art gallery in central London

New Switch House at Tate Modern, featuring Neo Bankside apartments just left of central London’s art gallery. 

Timeline of Tate Modern’s privacy row  

2007 – Councillors approve plans for Neo Bankside, a new £132 development with 217 flats and penthouses in four separate ‘pavilions’. 

2009 – Planning permission granted to Tate Modern for the construction of Switch House. This includes a viewing platform. Neo Bankside didn’t oppose the application.  

2012 – Neo Bankside has been completed. 

2016 – The Tate Modern unveils its new viewing gallery on floor 10 as part of its £260m Switch House extension. 

2017: Residents file a complaint alleging their Human Right Act 1998 rights to privacy were violated when visitors entered their apartments. 

February 2019: High Court judge Mr Justice Mann accepts that privacy was invaded but states it would not have happened if there were normal-sized windows. So, dismiss the claim. 

February 2020: The Court of Appeal overturns the High Court’s decision, and the claim is thrown out. The Supreme Court is denied the request of the owners to hear the case in Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton. 

December 2021: The Supreme Court is called to hear the case in an attempt last-ditch by the homeowners to shut down the gallery.  

Mr Weekes stated that the device could be used to open the viewing galleries 24 hours a day and could supply every visitor with binoculars.

According to the barrister, there is no sense in the court’s ruling that these activities are’reasonable’. The affected people do not have a right to ‘legal remedy.

M. Weekes referred to the Court of Appeal’s judgment and stated that it listed three reasons this case was not within the scope of law of nuisance.

The court supported its decision based on legal precedent, but Mr Weekes claimed they had “both individually and globally misinterpreted the authorities”. 

He stated that if the Court of Appeal had understood the control mechanisms for nuisance, they would have realized those controls are equally effective in activities creating visual intrusion and other types of activities.

“In relation plan the Court of Appeal overestimates the capability of the planning system control unneighborly behavior.”  

Hearing before Supreme Court President Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd Jones, Lord Kitchin and Lord Sales continues. 

Mail Online reached out to Tate Modern in order for them to comment.  

Lindsay Urquhart is 48 years old and is a designer who has been promoted to the top of multi-national HR company Bespoke Career Management Ltd. She lives below the gallery’s level, but spoke at the High Court hearing on February 1, 2013.  

She stated that she had known that the Tate Modern Blavatnik Building would soon be built when she first bought her house, but that she did not realize that there would also be a gallery for public inspection.

She believed that the section facing south would only be used for emergencies and she didn’t think about the intrusions into the flats this gave.

According to her, she said that in the past, she experienced visual intrusions and photographs, waving gestures and obscene gestures and upsetting coverage through social media.

She also stated that when she visited the gallery, ‘she overheard one visitor to the gallery say that the ‘rich b*******’ who lived in the flats deserved the intrusion that the gallery afforded.’ 

Ms. Urquhart stated in a testimony for the 2018 hearing that she felt her life revolved around viewing platforms’ opening hours.

Ian McFadyen claimed that another claimant said the following: “When our blinds open and the viewing platforms is in use we are more often watched, waved to, photographed, and filmed”

Guy Fetherstonhaugh, QC for Tate stated at that time that “the claimants’ remedy to what they perceive as a nuisance lies with their own hands” and added: “There is no right or privilege to have a particular view.”

He stated that the claimants sought to force defendants to close valuable resources and to deny the public access to the viewing platforms for their intended purposes, only to grant the claimants unencumbered rights to enjoy their view.