TV costume designer and her husband who claimed their neighbour installed a mannequin dummy to stare into their bedroom from the loft window of his £1.5 million home have lost a High Court privacy battle.
Rosie and Christopher Taylor-Davies insist they have been forced to live in “darkness” with the curtains drawn after neighbour, Simon Cook, installed a Velux window which faces directly into their bedroom.
The couple said they had to resort to getting undressed behind a bookcase, as the only place on their top floor where they could not be seen, and accused Mr Cook of “adding insult to injury” by installing a blonde mannequin dummy in the window.
At the High Court, a senior judge said the facts of the dispute show Mr Cook “is not taking (his neighbours’) concerns seriously” but ruled that he had not breached planning rules by installing an openable window without frosted glass.
Speaking after the court defeat, Mr Taylor-Davies, 59, a technical consultant and software designer, said they are considering leaving their home of 27-years as a result of the dispute.
“We might have to move out because of all this,” he said. “We can’t take a shower or get dressed without being overlooked.”
He said the mannequin is no longer stationed at the window but he and his wife, 62, a TV, film, and theatre costumer designer, continue to keep the curtains drawn, adding: “It’s essentially like living in darkness.”
Mr Cook, who was not part of the legal dispute, sought planning permission for alterations to his home in Dover House Road, close to Richmond Park, in 2019, including a roof extension with dormer windows on both sides and at the back.
Mr and Mrs Taylor-Davies objected to parts of the project, calling the windows an “invasion of their privacy” and suggesting their neighbour would be able to look into areas of their home where they sleep and shower.
In February 2020, Wandsworth Council gave Mr Cook planning permission for his extension, but laid down conditions that the dormer window should have obscured glass and be non-opening. However council planning officers waived those rules for the Velux, because it “faces the sky” and would have less impact on neighbours.
Bringing a High Court challenge to try to force the council into planning enforcement, the Taylor-Davies’ barrister Stephen Whale argued Mr Cook’s positioning of the mannequin in the Velux window “serves to give the impression, as presumably he intends, that there is a person at the window overlooking their property and invading their privacy”
“It only adds to their distress” he said. “The overlooking of their property and the invasion of their privacy as a result of the Velux window is very distressing to them.
“There is no good reason for the Velux window to have clear glass or be openable as there is another window very close on the opposite wall.”
Giving judgment, Mrs Justice Lang said: “Mr Cook periodically installs a mannequin in the rooflight which gives the impression that there is a person at the window looking out at [the claimants’ home].
“This suggests to me that he is not taking the claimants’ concerns seriously, and so he is unlikely to maintain obscuring film voluntarily.”
But she said there was nothing in the planning conditions obliging him to obscure the rooflight’s glass. She noted that Mr Cook had added an “obscuring film” to part of the rooflight, but added that it could easily be removed.