About us

Introduction to Lancaster Cohousing

This section offers a very brief overview of the company and the community, in the form of Frequently Asked Questions.

Directions to Lancaster Cohousing

What is Lancaster Cohousing?

We are an intergenerational cohousing community of 35-41 member households in the village of Halton, 3 miles from Lancaster in the North West of England.

What is the Forgebank community?

Lancaster Cohousing Co Ltd is the name of the company, but the community is more often referred to as the Forgebank community, after the pedestrian street that runs down its centre.

How many people live in the community?

As of March 2020 there were 62 adult members and 17 children/young people (17 and under).

When were you formed?

Lancaster Cohousing Company Ltd was registered in 2006. Its main purpose was to develop housing and communal facilities for its members.

When were the houses built? When did you move in?

We bought the site in 2009, finished the collaborative design in 2010, and gained planning permission and appointed a building contractor in 2011. The homes were completed between August 2012 and August 2013, and we moved in in stages as each terrace was finished.

Did you develop the building project yourselves?

Yes, in collaboration with a Professional Team. See also the story of the development (to be completed)

Is there a shared vision for the community?

Our shared values and aspirations are articulated in our Vision and A community built on ecological values - What does this mean in practice? 

What’s the company structure?

Lancaster Cohousing Ltd. is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and owned by its members. All major decisions are made collectively at our General Meetings (every two months), using a collaborative consensus process. Directors oversee ongoing company business between GMs. They are elected annually for a term of two years and are responsible to the General Meeting. Smaller decisions are devolved to Service Teams where most of the work is done. All members are expected to join a Service Team and to help to run the community. The legal structure and decision making process are laid out in our Articles of association.        

How do you make decisions?

We make our decisions using a consensus process in which all members are expected to take part. The supreme decision-making body is the bi-monthly General Meeting (GM). Consensus does not mean that all members must always agree, but that we all strive to listen and understand each others positions so that we can find a way that everyone can live with, even if it is not the preferred way for individuals. But consensus is more than just a compromise: it is a process that can result in surprising and creative solutions often better than the original suggestions. So consensus is very important to community building. For more information, see these Seeds for Change resources.

Our consensus process is continuing to evolve as we learn. If a consensus decision is not achieved in two GMs there is provision for the issue to be voted on.

What facilities do you share?

All members have access to all our shared facilities, including the Common House, food store, laundry, children’s play room, guest rooms, tool shed, bike shed, land and gardens, and the car club.

Where do you get your energy and heat?

Our energy needs are met mostly through renewables: roof-mounted solar panels, a bio-mass boiler and a local community micro-hydro scheme. Lancaster Cohousing supplies the homes with electricity through a microgrid, and heating and hot water through a district heating system. Supply to each household is metered and billing is quarterly.

Is there any separate workspace?

Members get preferential rates on the cost of workspace in Halton Mill. The Mill is a co-working space, nextdoor to the houses, owned by Lancaster Cohousing and run by Green Elephant, a not-for-profit cooperative organisation.

What are the costs for members?

The costs of running the common facilities are met by a monthly service charge, which we agree together every year at GM. The costs of the laundry and guest rooms are met through a charge per use. The food store and car club are run as separate not-for-profit cooperatives, and the costs are met through the pricing.

Who does the work to run the community?

Members are expected to share the essential work that needs to be done to keep the community running smoothly. At the moment (Mar 2020), we estimate this should be about 10 hours per adult per month.

Do you eat together?

Eating together is a very important part of community life. Members contribute to our regular vegan and vegetarian common meals by cooking and clearing up as part of a team.        

And what about cleaning?

Members sign up on a 6-monthly cleaning rota, with each person taking responsibility for keeping clean a specific aspect of the shared facilities. Cleaning the common house floor is also done by rota once a week.