The Coin Street campaign for affordable family housing began in 1974 and was led by a grassroots Action Group. They formed to fight against the powerful force (and pocket) of developers who saw this part of London as ripe for vast office and retail schemes, ignoring the sensitivity or community which existed there.
But in 1984 the original action group morphed into Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB), a private company limited by guarantee, and things starting changing…
In the late 1970s a huge scheme proposed by architect Richard Rogers intended to create a boulevard of commercial units from Waterloo Station through to the city, providing city-workers with a direct route to work along a glass ‘arcade’. In effect this would have given them a straight route through the South Bank without getting their feet dirty, forgetting they were in South London at all and providing the developers – for whom Rogers was working in partner with – a huge inflation of rental value. This proposal acted like a battering ram pushing aside history, community and existing buildings – the OXO Tower would have been demolished to make way for a 20 story office block and hotel to which the chain of shopping malls led. It also acted as a cliff-face of towers which partitioned off the bit of South London developers wanted, cushioned it against the less valuable lands further south while scooping it up towards the richer North and claiming the loved South Bank cultural spaces for its own. It should be noted that Rogers is one of the very few supporters of his friend Heatherwick’s scheme, and that Heatherwick uses precisely the same phrasing to sell his dream as Rogers uses in this talk at the Architecture Association here.
But half the land was owned by the GLC and half by private investors, so the issue ultimately was persuading the politicians at the GLC to back a “Communities First” approach. Coin Street Action Group formed to do just this, and through community activism, developing alternative approaches and working with political authorities people power won through. The land was given restrictive covenants to ensure its use for affordable workspace and 400 affordable flats and then sold to the action group for a £750,000 to look after for future generations.
Over the years since the area has gradually thrived with four housing co-operatives were formed, although through the 1990s housing supplu dwindled with only 220 flats constructed and the largest plot of land left undeveloped. Gabriel’s Wharf was converted into a temporary retail space (though is earmarked for sheltered housing) and the OXO Tower was not only saved but life was brought to it.
Parks formed a central core to the area, such as the open space on the river front which has written into its lease that it should remain “an open space for use by members of the public for recreational leisure or educational purposes” in perpetuity. This park will be entirely destroyed to make way for what Lambeth Council refer to as “a windfall opportunity” comprising of a huge commercial unit with the Garden Bridge queuing area on the roof. Thirty mature trees will be felled and 2,500m2 of enjoyed park will be lost.
This park was a key part of the Riverside Walkway developed by CSCB and opened by the Queen in 1988, bringing public access to the South Bank with the intention of “offering spectacular views of the Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral and the city”. These views and the joy of this Riverside Walkway is now under threat of complete destruction from the Garden Bridge which will also hugely affects the community and residential areas which CSCB was formed to represent, look after and work for.
Which makes it a huge shame that some of the same people who began CSCB by protesting on the street with signs and anger still sit on the board of the organisation but completely ignore protesting Coin Street residents who overwhelmingly oppose the Garden Bridge and all it stands for. The local residents and members of Thames Central Open Spaces who fight for their community now are doing exactly as people like Iain Tuckett and other board members did in the early 80s, but now he is on the other side and is looking to force through the largescale development CSCB was formed to defend against.
There is much written about the emergence of CSCB, and also much written about how the organisation has changed over the years. This paper, “Urban regeneration and shifting power geometries on the South Bank” by Guy Baeten, is worth a read if you want to get your teeth into the political complexities, which culminates in the statement:
“Regeneration strategies are patronisingly planned for the local community, not by the community: the decision-power over their life trajectories and the neighbourhoods they live in remains ﬁrmly in the hands of mighty quangos and partnerships… Partnership-style regeneration, although aimed at meeting social-economic needs in the area, has disempowered those whom it claims to be working for. It has shifted the epicentre of urban regeneration power to unaccountable bodies which have harmed the already fragile base of local democracy.”
Feel free to email CSCB Chief Executive Iain Tuckett to remind him what he stood on the streets in the early 1980s to fight for and of your concerns for the irreparable damage that the Garden Bridge will have on this unique part of the city, not to mention the residents and community he works for.
YOU CAN HELP FIGHT THE GARDEN BRIDGE BY
SUPPORTING THE JUDICIAL REVIEW, SIMPLY
FOR MORE WAYS OF HELPING SEE
THE TAKE ACTION PAGE