Coin Street, South Bank

Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB) shows how a local initiative changed London’s South Bank forever and how social action and the use of different tools can be employed to benefit the whole community.

Set up to make the area a better one in which to live, to work, to study and to visit, members of Coin Street Community Builders must live locally and so understand the needs and opportunities of the area. Members have also set up a registered housing association, Coin Street Secondary Housing Co-operative and, for each residential development, a tenant-owned ‘primary’ co-op.

In the 1970s, commercial developers proposed a development of offices which, like most of the other riverside development in that part of London, would have cut the surrounding community off from the river, keep all the added value of the development for themselves, and add nothing of value to the community.

A community campaign was launched proposing its own scheme for the site. Their vision was for a mixed use development of housing, workspace, open spaces and community facilities.

The freehold of the 13 acre (5.5 hectare) site was purchased for £1 million in 1984 using standard mortgages and a business plan showing loans being serviced from temporary uses of the land. The purchase price reflected restrictive covenants and the fact that much of the area had been derelict for over 30 years.

Today the area is transformed into a thriving mixed use neighbourhood with 220 co-operative homes, gardens and riverside walkway, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars together with a neighbourhood centre providing a nursery as well as programmes for adults, young people, families and children.

Photographer: Morley von Sternberg