Neo Bankside

Above: The view across to the Neo Bankside flats from the Tate Modern viewing gallery. Credit: AP/Fair use.

Fearn v Tate

The below is the full text of the six Claimants' Witness allegations from the Fearn v Tate judgment published on 11 February 2019 ... these six text blocks are poignantly Ballardian, perhaps even wonderfully Ballardian, without reserve, or really any need for further qualification:

Mr Ian McFadyen. Mr McFadyen owns flat 1901 of Block C (on the 19th floor). It is on roughly the same level as the [Tate] viewing gallery. He viewed the flat in 2013 and bought it in 2014, at which point the [Tate extension] Blavatnik Building was not finished. He lives in the flat part of the time, having a home elsewhere as well. His son Alexander lived in the building for some period when working in London. He gave evidence to the effect that he and his family were 'more or less constantly watched' from the viewing gallery. They could not leave washing out, and had to be 'properly dressed' at all times. People on the viewing gallery watched, photographed, filmed and on occasion even used binoculars to look into the flat. The intrusion was relentless and they felt as if they were in a zoo. They keep the blind down during the day in the northern (Tate) side, and when they have to put the blinds down on the southern/western side in the afternoon (against the sun) the result is that there is no view outside. He rarely used the winter garden because he was uncomfortable about being photographed. His wife finds the situation so intolerable she seldom stays in the flat. He relied on a home finder to identify the property when they bought it, and he did his own research. He admitted he purchased the property in the knowledge there would be a viewing gallery, but he thought that visitors would apply the same standards of decency as would be applied if there were residential or office windows opposite.

Alexander McFadyen. He is Mr McFadyen's son and lived in flat 1901 for some 9 months from September 2016. He would work on the dining room table which gave him a good impression of the intrusiveness of visitors to the gallery. He felt he was constantly watched. He claimed to have counted 84 people taking photographs into the apartment over one 90 minute period. He himself took pictures of viewers and took one of someone said to be training binoculars on the flat. He accepted that to a degree he would have attracted interest to himself by his own photographing activities, but said (and I accept) that that does not explain all the activity he saw. He only sought to photograph the gallery once someone there had photographed the flats first.

Mrs Claire Fearn. Mrs Fearn and her husband acquired flat 1801 in August 2014. This flat, like 1901, is roughly on the same level as the gallery. It was intended as a second home for them. Her first experience of people in the gallery made her feel 'sick to her stomach'--people waved, made obscene gestures and photographed and filmed the family in the apartment. She decided that her young children should not visit there any more, and so she herself hardly ever goes there. The older children are advised to keep the blinds down when the gallery is open. She is so upset by the attention that she has only been in the flat 5 or 6 times since the gallery opened, but friends of hers had the same experience when they stayed there.

Mr Giles Fearn. Mr Fearn noticed people filming 'for long periods of time'. He was shocked when he was shown a file of internet postings showing his flat. As a result he spends less time at the apartment than he had intended. He now stays only on Sunday nights, and occasionally Monday nights, and in the last 6 months even less than that. He keeps the blinds down when the gallery is open, and tries to keep lights off after dark because the blinds are partially transparent. He (like his wife) said that the interior of the Winter Garden could be seen through both faces of the Garden. (I find that while that could just be true, a view from just the south western face would not be intrusive because it is so oblique.) He was asked what he knew of the proposed gallery when he purchased. He said he was aware of the 'Tate Modern Environment', and the main shell of the Blavatnik Building was completed at the time. He was aware that there was a 'walkway' on the 10th floor because he could see it through the scaffolding. He did not make any inquiries about it and did not realise it was a viewing gallery until the time when it was opened. He had relied on his solicitors’ searches which did not reveal anything about it.

Mr Gerald Kraftman. Mr Kraftman purchased flat 2101 in 2013. He liked the 'spectacular' views from the flat, particularly from the Winter Garden, where he used to sit. Being higher than the Tate Modern, he had a better view than lower flats. He can no longer sit there, or sit at his breakfast bar, because of people on the viewing gallery staring at him, photographing him and filming him. He has noticed people using binoculars to view his flat. When he invited a Mail on Sunday reporter to his flat (doubtless in an attempt to gain some publicity for his plight) the reporter published a story saying that as soon as the two of them went into the winter gardens in Mr Kraftman's flat people in the gallery starting photographing and waving at them. As a result he feels he has to keep the blinds down on that side of his flat. If he does not he feels under surveillance. He is concerned about people taking photographs of his grandchildren so he keeps the blinds down when they are there. His partner does not allow her grandchildren to visit the flat because they would be the subject of high levels of scrutiny. If the problem is not solved he feels (as do the Fearns) that he will have to try to sell the flat.

Mrs Lindsay Urquhart. Mrs Urquhart lives at flat 1301, which is below the level of the gallery. When she purchased her flat she knew that the Blavatnik Building was being built but did not know there was to be a public viewing gallery. She then became aware that there would be a gallery, as the building was built, but assumed it would point towards the best views which were north, west and east. Even when it was complete she assumed the south section would be used only for emergency access--she never contemplated the degree of intrusion into the flats which this section gave. Since then she has experienced visual intrusion and photography, people waving and obscene gestures. The coverage in social media was upsetting to her and when she visited the gallery she overheard one visitor to the gallery say that the 'rich bastards' who lived in the flats deserved the intrusion that the gallery afforded. Without the blinds being closed she feels completely exposed in her kitchen and she will not let her young daughter into the exposed areas. She keeps the blinds closed when the numbers are at their worst, particularly during the day at weekends. She feels she can no longer host children’s parties in the Winter Garden, which she used to do.

(14 February 2019)