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People in glass houses – a right to privacy

In a recent case (New Bankside Residents v Tate Gallery), the High Court had to decide whether residents of flats in Central London with floor to ceiling windows opposite the Tate Modern Gallery were entitled to a right of privacy from the Tate’s viewing gallery.

The flat owners sought an injunction against the Tate requiring them to close the part of the gallery which provided views into their flats.  The flat owners claimed that the views into their living areas was an actionable nuisance as visitors to the Tate looked into their flats and took photographs of them.

Construction of the flats was completed by 2016; the same year the viewing gallery was opened.  The viewing gallery runs around the outside of the top floor of its building and provides a panoramic view of London.

The Judge decided that the law of nuisance could be extended to a right of privacy against another land owner.  However, he decided there was no actionable nuisance in this case because the flat owners had chosen to live in a flat with wall to ceiling glass and steps could be taken to protect the residents against an invasion of privacy; for example, by using the installed solar blinds or installing privacy film.

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