This page aims to give you a sense of the Lancaster Cohousing community and how it works, and what joining entails – what you can expect of us, and what we can expect of you. It acts as a summary and introduction to our key policies and agreements. Joining the community involves agreeing to abide by all the community agreements, so please follow the links to read the documents.
Please note that some of these documents were written during our development phase, and are somewhat out of date: we are slowly updating them. Please ask our Membership Team about anything that isn't clear, or to ask for a hard copy.
About Lancaster Cohousing
Our shared vision
Our shared values and aspirations are articulated in our Vision and A community built on ecological values - What does this mean in practice? Understanding and supporting the values expressed in these documents is a fundamental condition of membership.
Our company structure
Lancaster Cohousing Ltd. is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. Decision-making is shared by all our members at the monthly General Meeting. Directors are elected annually for a term of two years: they are responsible to the General Meeting. The legal structure and decision making process are laid out in our Articles of association.
Our decision making process
We endeavor to make all our decisions by consensus. All members take part in our decision making process through engagement in service teams and attendance at GM. Consensus is a process that works creatively to include all the people making the decision. Instead of simply voting for an item, and letting the majority of the group get their way, the group is committed to finding solutions that everyone can live with. This ensures that everyone’s opinions, ideas and reservations can be taken into account. 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. For more information about consensus decision making, please see these Seeds for Change resources.
Our own consensus process is described in Forgebank consensus (June 2012). It 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.
Membership - options and responsibilities
Leaseholders and their tenants
All leaseholders and their tenants must have been accepted as members and must abide by our agreements. They must also abide by the terms of the lease, such as the private car arrangements. The leaseholder is responsible for ensuring that other people living or staying in their home also understand and abide by those terms.
Other non-leaseholders living at Forgebank and Heron Bank can apply to be members. This includes Heron Bank owners and tenants, and partners, adult children, other relatives and friends coming to live, temporarily or permanently, at Forgebank or Heron Bank. If accepted, they have the same rights and responsibilities as other members. The application process is similar to the leaseholder process, and the acceptance of a signed application form forms a covenant to abide by our rules and agreements.
If they don’t want to be part of the community, they don’t have to join. In that case, they should not make use of community facilities except as the ‘guest’ of a member, but they are welcome to contribute and have the option to join open membership clubs such as the car club. If they are living in a leasehold home, they must abide by the terms of the lease, such as the private car arrangements. The leaseholder is responsible for explaining these terms, and for ensuring their compliance.
The lease defines the relationship between the leaseholder and the company. Most ordinary flats and apartments use this model and it is understood by mortgage lenders. It contains a number of additional provisions over and above those found in a traditional lease. These reflect the special needs of an ecological cohousing development. Here is an example lease.
The costs of running most of the common facilities are met by a monthly service charge, which we agree at GM each spring for the new financial year (starting in May).
All adult residents pay for the Community Facilities (flat rate + usage for electricity, water etc) and make a contribution to the Sink Fund for future replacing and refurbishing in the common areas. In 2015-16, these charges came to ₤25.80/month/adult. Residents who are not members (e.g. adult children) are charged only if they are resident for more than half the year. No charge for under-18s.
Each leaseholder household also pays an Occupiers Contribution to cover buildings insurance and maintenance for the leasehold properties, and landscaping costs. The charge is calculated according to the size of the property. In 2015-16, it ranged between ₤20/month (for one-bed downstairs flats) and ₤50/month (for the 3-storey houses).
If you are thinking of having tenants
We maintain a list of people who have expressed interest in renting as part of Lancaster Cohousing. Please read Guidelines about Renting etc for leaseholders
All members are expected to share the essential work that needs to be done to maintain the community. This is currently set at 2.5 hours per adult per week. This covers work we have all agreed is essential; of course, many members are also able to contribute additional voluntary hours on ‘desirable’ work! Ongoing community work is organised in Service Teams. Specific one-off jobs are organised in Task and Finish Teams.
We also help to cook and wash up for common meals ten times a year, and contribute to cleaning the common areas on a 6 monthly rota basis.
Some members also carry out work for the Car Club and for the Mill, the coworking space next door to the homes which is owned by Lancaster Cohousing. These are run as non profit cooperatives and provide an essential part of our services. Work done for these organisations is paid for, and does not form part of the community work contribution process.
Eating together is an important aspect of our community life, and supports our vision, in particular by encouraging social interaction and sustainable living. Communal meals are vegan and vegetarian, and we aim to offer four communal meals in the Common House each week. All members are expected to contribute to cooking communal meals and clearing up as part of a team. This blog gives an idea of how one of us found the experience of cooking for 40. Our Common House food policy gives more details.
Private cars and the car club
Our objectives in relation to travel are shown in our Travel Plan; the primary (but not the only) one is to reduce the environmental impact of our travel.
All car users in leasehold (Forgebank) homes are expected to join our car club. Only in very specific circumstances may a member apply to keep a private car on site. In this case, the owner would be encouraged to share their car on ‘any driver insurance’ and would be expected to offer lifts to others. (Our ‘shared journey’ website makes this possible, by recording details of planned journeys.) Due to limited car parking capacity on the site, a parking space cannot be guaranteed. Members may not keep private cars on the public highway within a 2km radius of Forgebank. Forgebank and the use of private cars has more information.
If you have a car, please contact the Travel Service Team early on in your application for membership, so they can help you think through how to meet your travel needs.
A member living in a freehold Heron Bank home has their own parking space in front of their house. They have no obligation to join the car club, but they may if they wish.
Gardening in private and community spaces
Our 'personal' outside space consists of the terrace and balcony (if any) to the south (river side) of each house, and, on the north side, the area bounded at the front edge by the overhead porch. Heron Bank homes also have gardens front and back.
All other outside space is shared by us all, and managed by the Land Service Team. Their strategy takes into account our high-level cohousing aim (and Planning Obligation) to minimise our impact on the environment, including our impact on the local ecosystem.
Members, of course, may place any plant they wish in their own private terrace or garden. But we ask that they choose and manage their plants mindfully in order to minimise the risk of non-native plants escaping into the shared gardens and the local ecosystem.
- Plants native to LA2, Native plants, and Beneficial Non Native plants list beneficial plants recommended by our consultant to help increase bio-diversity on the site.
- Invasive Plants to avoid lists plants to avoid at all costs.
- Plants for Private Spaces - further guidance on avoiding spread of non-native species, and the process for carrying out and paying for cleaning up if escapes occur (as required by our Planning obligations).
- Guidelines for The Street to ensure it remains accessible and safe for everyone.
To promote a harmonious relationship among pets, pet owners, and non-pet-owners and a peaceful, clean, and safe environment for all, we have a Pet Policy, some supplementary Pets policy guidance. and notes on Toxocariasis.
Smoking is not permitted in the communal areas. See the Smoking policy.
When the time comes to move on, an owner can sell their leasehold or freehold on the open market. We encourage an active ‘waiting pool’ so that there is a waiting list of people interested in buying or renting homes here, which facilitates this process.
A prospective buyer would need to be accepted by members, and jump through the same membership hoops as we are asking you to do. Our Membership Team will work with you to help you find someone who will make an active and enthusiastic community member. In the unlikely event that members don’t accept your prospective purchaser, we then enter a process where, if no other acceptable buyer can be found, the company itself must take on responsibility for buying the property.
Your membership ceases on the completion of the sale of the leasehold or freeehold.
Highly recommended reading
About joining a community
- Cohousing by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett is a great first book to get a 'feel for' cohousing.
- Finding Community - how to join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community by Diana Leafe Christian, New Society Publishers, 2007
- Creating a Life Together - practical tools to grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities by Diana Leafe Christian, New Society Publishers, 2003
Click here for links to other cohousing groups in the UK and further afield.