Our story

Protesters with placards

Walking along the riverside by Oxo Tower Wharf, it’s hard to imagine that in the early 1980s the area was bleak and unloved, with few shops and restaurants, a dying residential community and a weak local economy.

That all changed thanks to an extraordinary campaign by local residents and supporters, which led to Coin Street’s purchase and redevelopment of a 13-acre site. 

Now, our site is at the heart of a thriving neighbourhood with co-operative homes, parks and gardens, shops and design studios, galleries, restaurants, a family and children’s centre, sports pitches, and a range of community programmes and activities.

The South Bank and Oxo

And the riverside it sits on is one of London’s most visited places, home to iconic attractions and venues like Guys' and St Thomas' Hospital, the London Eye, Southbank Centre, the BFI, National Theatre, Rambert Dance Company, Tate Modern and Borough Market. A little inland are institutions like King's College London, the Young Vic and Old Vic theatres and London South Bank University, as well as many hotels and the headquarters of national and international businesses. 

The South Bank

During the Second World War, the South Bank had suffered extensive bomb damage. Further demolition followed in preparation for the Festival of Britain, held in 1951.

The Royal Festival Hall was the only permanent legacy of the festival. It was later joined by the National Theatre, the National Film Theatre, ITV London, and many other media and arts organisations

The 1960s saw a huge increase in the number of office buildings in the area. Staff were mainly commuters with no connection to the local area. By the early 1970s, the residential population of the area had fallen from 50,000 to just 4,500. Many schools, shops and local businesses closed.

The Campaign

By the mid 1970s local people were beginning to feel increasingly marginalised. Residents came together and created a community plan which prioritised people, homes and community facilities.

In 1977, plans to build Europe’s tallest hotel and over 1 million square feet of office space between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges had been announced. Coin Street Action Group was set up in response. Supported by other local organisations, the group drew up plans for housing, a new riverside park and walkway, shops and leisure facilities. Seven years of campaigning, and two year-long public inquiries followed.

The Greater London Council (GLC) originally supported plans for office development. But, in 1981 it threw its weight behind the community scheme. Coin Street Community Builders was established and bought the 13-acre site from the GLC for £1 million in 1984.

Coin Street Community Builders

Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB) was set up to make our North Southwark and Waterloo neighbourhood a better place to live, work and play. The company is limited by guarantee. This means that it can carry out commercial activity but income is used to deliver its public service objectives rather than distributed to shareholders. Members have also set up a registered housing association, Coin Street Secondary Housing Co-operative and, for each residential development, a tenant-owned "fully-mutual" primary co-op.

CSCB employs a staff team to develop, manage and maintain the site and oversee its community and commercial activities and programmes. Associated charities also support education, leisure, arts, fitness and other community activities. We work closely with other local organisations such as South Bank Partnership, neighbourhood planning forums, local business improvement districts, and South Bank Employers Group.

Opening up the river

Along much of the Thames, offices, hotels and private housing developments had ‘cut off’ existing communities from the river. We wanted to open up the river for everyone to enjoy.

Between 1984 and 1988 we organised the demolition of derelict buildings, the completion of the South Bank riverside walkway and created a new riverside park called Bernie Spain Gardens. This opened up spectacular views of the Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the City, and now attracts visitors from all over the world as well as being much-loved amenity enjoyed by people living and working in London.

Future Bernie Spain Gardens design