tVerdict: People who live in glass houses may throw stones with impunity. After six years of legal battles, the highest court in the land He ruled that residents of the luxury glass-walled apartments opposite the Tate Modern gallery face an unacceptable level of “constant visual intrusion”. They’ve been content with the dream of living in an expensive goldfish bowl next to one of the most visited museums in the world, and now they’ve decided they’ve had enough of looking at them, thank you very much.
The unprecedented ruling represents an extremely devastating step for the future of public life in our cities. It suggests that the mere ability of others to look through your windows is enough to banish those people, to close off that space, and to regulate the surrounding urban environment so that nothing affects your personal bubble. population New Bankside Enjoy panoramic views of the London skyline, full of telescopes adorning their glass-walled terraces, but they seem to only want their mushroom views in one direction. With that judgment, the view of just five wealthy apartment owners beats the enjoyment of that view by millions of other people annually. A few’s insistence on living without curtains takes away the use of one of the capital’s most exciting public spaces.
It is a landmark decision that can fundamentally shape the nature of how streets and public spaces are made. The English planning system already has some of the more vague rules about overlooked spaces for new homes, making streets unnecessarily wide and windswept, and blocks placed unnecessarily apart. With that provision, those urban expanses could get bigger, windows could get smaller, all driven by the paranoia that someone might see inside their home.
It sets an unfair precedent, providing a runaway Nimby charter that could unleash a wave of unsubstantiated spam claims. The inhabitants of Nine Elms, the home of that water basin of the rich, may dwell “sky pool”, They suddenly decided that they didn’t like being fooled by US diplomats after all, and had the US embassy next door closed? Can the powerful bankers in the glass office towers of the Square Mile realize that they are tired of being seen by tourists at St Paul’s Cathedral viewing gallery and have closed the majestic dome? The ruling suggests that any developer who builds a glass tower next to an open public space may have that space retroactively cleared of people, so that they do not interfere with the “usual use and enjoyment” of their homes.
Ironically, this claim was made by people who live in a compound where the towers are too close together for them to We already see each other’s homes anyway. Nor was the Tate’s viewing terrace a secret: the museum’s plans were already known when the apartments went up for sale, and the Neo Bankside developers actively supported the museum’s expansion. Commenting on the original planning application, which was granted permission in 2009, the apartment developer stated that it “strongly supports the latest proposals, which will increase the attractiveness of the site as a visitor destination and will result in a number of other positive benefits for the area”. The main selling point of the apartments was the proximity to the attractiveness they have now defeated in court. “Brush shoulders with some kind of glitzy art,” wink in Neo Bankside’s marketing materials. As long as they don’t have the nerve to look at you.
The ruling is accelerating the long-running phenomenon of new people moving into an area for certain urban attractions – be it bars, clubs or art galleries – and then relentlessly campaigning to shut down those very things. It is what destroys cities. The very things that make an area desirable, and stimulate an influx of real estate speculators, are seen as nuisances that must be eliminated. And it doesn’t matter who was there first: As the law says, if a person intentionally moves into an existing nuisance, it’s still a nuisance.
Annoying trend was identified in 2014 by The landmark case of Coventry v LawrenceWhen a married couple moves into a house next to a racetrack, then they realize that living with the constant sound of blaring motorbikes isn’t what they’re thinking of. Surprisingly, the new neighbors were awarded damages and an injunction against the racetrack, which has been in existence since 1975. A verdict sounded this week, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal decision, rejecting the track owner’s defense that the new residents had “arrived at the inconvenience.” Still, karma can be sweet. The couple may have prevailed in court, but during the drawn-out case, their house burned down.
Perhaps the simplest solution would be to buy some earplugs – just as people who live in glass houses might consider investing in net curtains, before they threaten the future of urban public spaces for all.