Joining Lancaster Cohousing

Essential reading for prospective members

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Please note that some of these documents were written during our development phase, and maybe somewhat out of date: we are slowly updating them.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

Please read the items on the website under About us especially who we are, and most of the items under About the project.

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 aspire to make all our decisions by consensus. All members take part in our decision making process through engaging in service teams and attending 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 decision making process (2018). 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

Who’s a member?

All the owners and tenants of Forgebank homes must have been accepted as a member.

Anyone else who lives in the leasehold houses (eg partners, adult children, other relatives and friends coming to live temporarily or permanently), and residents of the freehold Heron Bank homes may apply to join if they wish.

A resident who is not an owner or tenant of a leasehold home doesn’t have to join. In that case, they may not make use of community facilities except as a member’s accompanied guest, 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 Forgebank lease        

The lease defines the relationship between Forgebank leaseholders and the company. It’s based on a model used for many ordinary flats and apartments and is understood by mortgage lenders. It contains a number of additional provisions over and above those found in a traditional lease to reflect the special needs of an ecological cohousing development, 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 the terms of the lease. Here is an example lease.

Our agreements

All members must abide by our agreements and have the same community rights and responsibilities. So please follow the links to read the documents below. A signed application form forms a covenant to abide by our rules and agreements.

Service charge

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 2018-19, this charge is ₤26/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 2018-19, it ranges between ₤24/month/household (for one-bed downstairs flats) and ₤58/month/household (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 Renting Guidelines for leaseholders.

Community work

There’s lots to be done! And working together builds community. All members are expected to share the essential work that needs to be done to maintain the community - currently roughly 2.5 hours per adult per week. Many members also contribute extra 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 carry out work for the Car Club and for Halton Mill, the co-working space next 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.  

Communal meals

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 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 homes are expected to join our car club. Only in very specific circumstances may a member apply to the Travel Service Team 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 private parking space cannot be guaranteed, and members may not keep private cars on the public highway within a 2km radius of Forgebank. Everyday travel to Forgebank has more information.

Some prospective members have found it difficult to imagine how they will manage without their own car. We have come to some very creative solutions! So, 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 may apply to join the car club 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 (LAST). 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.

See also:


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.


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.

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 freehold.

Highly recommended reading

About joining a community

About cohousing

Click here for links to other cohousing groups in the UK and further afield.

How to join

Application form available from the Membership Team

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