Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB) is a social enterprise that grew out of the Coin Street Action Group. Set up in 1977, the group was formed to resist the commercial development on a large 13 acre site on the South Bank in London. Much of the surrounding area had already been developed into commercial uses, with residents either choosing to move out due to a general lack of affordable housing or being forcefully evicted. As the population declined sharply, schools and shops closed down and the remaining residents started to organise themselves with some help from local councillors. Eventually a 'drop-in action centre' was set up and when plans for closing a local playground were uncovered, this loose grouping formed the Waterloo Community Development Group. Later it became the Coin Street Action Group, but crucially through their earlier work they already had an identity and a strong sense of purpose. This allowed the group to carry out what was to become an extremely lengthy campaign for an alternative planning strategy based around the twin demands of affordable housing and open space.
The campaign for Coin Street lasted seven years and included two public inquiries. The first, held in 1979, was to decide the future use of the area and at which the community presented their own alternative plans. Ironically these plans were developed by the same architects who worked for the Greater London Council (GLC), which at that time supported the commercial development, but carried out in their own time as unpaid work. The inquiry rejected both plans and eventually both sides submitted revised planning applications which were also subject to a public inquiry. This inquiry too was inconclusive, approving both plans, but eventually the developers pulled out through sustained community pressure and because of the local government's eventual support for the residents.
In 1984, with the GLC facing abolition, the community acquired the land as CSCB for £1m in order to implement its development plan. Several projects on the initial site, as well as on other sites in the proximity, have been completed. These include four housing co-operative schemes, a park, a riverside walkway open to the public, as well as community facilities including a new community and sports centre. These have been funded using the profits from commercial endeavours, such as the refurbishment of the Oxo Tower, allowing CSCB to invest money back into the area. Cross-programming in each part of the scheme generates money from private ventures for use in community facilities, such as including a public car park in the basement of social housing schemes or including conference and meeting facilities in a neighbourhood centre. This careful mixture of private and public uses allows CSCB to provide a range of public facilities.
The long process that saw a community action group transform itself into a community developer is an important example of what residents can achieve even in extremely difficult circumstances. In this transition, it has been CSCB's organisational structure that has allowed it to remain accountable to its members. An affiliated housing association owns and is responsible for building the social housing, which is then leased to independent housing co-operatives. These are fully mutual, meaning that there is no right to buy, and the day-to-day management is also the responsibility of the co-operative. New tenants are required to complete a training course which gives them a sense of responsibility and the skills required for running a co-operative. The members of the CSCB board are mainly local residents, with outsiders used to provide specialised financial advice. This has meant that many of the original campaigners are still on the Board, including the Executive Director, Iain Tuckett. Although helped immensely by the years of campaigning that preceded its work, CSCB has developed a successful model for implementing self-managed social housing which could be replicated elsewhere.
Iain Tuckett, "Coin Street: There Is Another Way…," Community Development Journal 23, no. 4 (1988): 249-257.
"Iain Tuckett discusses the Communities in Control White Paper," YouTube, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCjzNoipxeE.
Robert K Home, "British Planning Law and the Politics of Inner City Renewal: The Case of Coin Street," Urban Law and Policy 7, no. 1 (March 1985).
Andrew Bibby, Coin Street: Case Study (University of East London, 2001), http://www.andrewbibby.com/socialenterprise/coin-street.html.
Robert Cowan, "Community Choice [Coin Street Housing Development]," Architects Journal 194, no. 10 (September 4, 1991).
Guy Baeten, "From Community Planning to Partnership Planning. Urban Regeneration and Shifting Power Geometries on the South Bank, London," GeoJournal 51, no. 4 (2000): 293-300.
News from NAM, "Heads you win, tails I lose," Slate, no. 14 (July 1979).
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