About us

Community - what do we share?

What do we share?

We share our decision making. We do our best to make it a collaborative creative process that takes all voices into account, and ultimately is concerned with what is good for all of us rather than what is good for me.

All members have access to all our shared facilities, including the Common House, food store, laundry, play room, guest rooms, tool shed, bike shed, gardens and land and car club. We cook for each other at communal meals and share the essential work needed to keep the show on the road.

Lancaster Cohousing owns Halton Mill. We have developed this as a co-working space, nextdoor to the houses and run by Green Elephant, a not-for-profit cooperative organisation. Members get preferential rates on the cost of workspace.

Impact of Covid

Since Covid, we have guidance for how to use our shared facilities in a way that keeps us all safe. What follows describes the situation before Covid - we hope one day, we will be able to return to this!

What happens in the common house?

The Common House is the hub of the community. At its heart is a shared kitchen and eating area where we share regular communal meals. We have social events such as games nights, film showings for adults and for children, weekly coffee mornings, a fortnightly Craft Ceilidh, a Burns night, carol singing and a new year revue, as well as an on-going jigsaw puzzle... It’s also a great place for sitting chatting around the wood-burning stove or over a brew, or for reading and relaxing. We use it for small meetings. Each member can book the Common House for their own event once a year, although the house is always open to other members.

Close by are postboxes where we collect our mail, guest bedrooms for visitors, a laundry, a children’s room, and a communal garden and terrace with views over the River Lune, where we enjoy sitting out.

How do the communal meals work?

Eating together is a key 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 the main Common House kitchen is a vegetarian space, but members can bring in meat or fish cooked at home once a week. We pay on a 'magic hat' (pay what you feel) basis but it’s important to cover the costs: usually £3-£3.50, depending on the complexity of the meal.  All members are expected to contribute to cooking communal meals and clearing up as part of a team (2 to 4 people to cook, and 2 to 3 people to wash up). This blog gives an idea of how one of us found the experience of cooking for 40.

We are continuously experimenting with different ways of eating together to offer a range of different types of meal and eating experiences to suit different people. All of these are open to any member. For example: there is a weekly Pot Luck supper - where each person brings a contribution; Daily Diners - a group who eat together most evenings when there’s no other shared meal; Supper Club - a more intimate occasion where people offer to host one of several tables; Sign ups - where cooks ask people to sign up if they plan to come. You don’t have to eat communally, but everyone is encouraged to, as it really supports the sense of community.

How does the community store work?

We have our own food store run by our Good Food Coop Service Team. It stocks a wide range including fresh veg, chilled, frozen and dry goods. We buy in bulk from Suma, an organic and ethical wholesaler and from local organic veg growers. This is both convenient and saves on shopping miles. It doesn’t make a profit, so you pay what it costs, with a small mark-up to cover wastage.

How does the car club work?

We have six cars in the Lancaster Community Car Club (as of March 2020), including two electric cars and a seven seater. They are a mixture of automatic and manual geared cars.  Anyone over 25 can join the car club. In March 2020, using a car costs £1.50 an hour (15.00 per day) plus 30p a mile. You can book a car online, and see what journeys other people are doing to help share journeys. This happens a lot. The Lancaster Community Car Club, is a separate not-for-profit cooperative, run by its members, who agree policy including pricing and what cars we buy.

Can a member keep their own car?

All car users in leasehold (Forgebank) homes are expected to join the car club. Only in very specific circumstances may a member apply to keep a private car on site. In this case, they would be encouraged to offer ‘community benefit’, for example, by sharing their car on ‘any driver’ insurance and by sharing their planned journeys in order to offer lifts to others. (Our website makes this possible, by recording details of planned journeys.) There is very limited car parking capacity, so an on-site parking space cannot be guaranteed, and a Lancaster City Council planning condition is enshrined in our lease that members may not keep private cars on the public highway within a 2km radius of Forgebank. For more details, please read Everyday travel at Forgebank.

Note: A resident 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.

How do the shared guest rooms work?

We have two guest rooms - a family room with a double bed and a bunk bed, and a twin room. Any member can book a guest room for family or friends - on first come first served basis -  for £17.50 a night per room (or £7.50 if the host takes responsibility for thorough cleaning and laundry once the guest has left).