Community action case studies

Community action is about putting communities at the heart of their own local services. Involving communities in the design and delivery of services can help to achieve several objectives, including:

  • Building community and social capacity – helping the community to share knowledge, skills and ideas
  • Community resilience – helping the community to support itself
  • Prevention – a focus on early access to services or support, with engagement in their design
  • Cross-sector collaboration and partnerships that provide added value
  • Maintaining and creating wealth – for example helping people into employment or developing community enterprises.

Commonly asked questions about community action

Do you or your community have an idea and you need help to get it off the ground?

For example;

  • How do I get the community safely back on the high street after COVID?
  • How can I restart my community group safely?
  • How can I start a Men’s Shed?
  • How could I open a community café?
  • How can I support the wellbeing of my community?
  • My volunteers are tired and need help from more people within the village. How do we become more resilient? 
  • My volunteers are dealing with issues they haven’t faced before like mental health support, hardship and financial worries within the community
  • How can I enable my volunteers to be more confident in what they are doing?
  • What training and resources are available?
  • What are other groups doing, and how did they achieve that?
  • I want my group to survive without me / I want to hand my work over to someone else.
  • My community conducted a Community-led Plan some time ago, but it needs updating. Community priorities have changed.  How do I go about conducting a new plan?

If you are unsure of any of the answers to these questions and need assistance, please contact us via the email address provided at the bottom of this page

Below is a selection of community-led initiatives, which show how groups can connect and improve the areas in which they live. Such initiatives not only bring tangible, positive benefits to a community, but also can improve the wellbeing, both physical and mental, of those who participate

If you or a group you are involved with are thinking of starting a new project or initiative in the area in which you live, take a look at the case studies detailed below to see what others have done and how they achieved their goals

The idea for the Balsham Good Neighbour Scheme initially came from work that was done by Steve Jordan as he had been a Community Worker as part of the local Parish Nurse Scheme. The Parish Nurse was

asking for people to assist her with her clients so that, when she had completed the medical aspect of the client’s needs, then there were other people available to support the client.

Further work was carried out to  explore possible needs of local residents through an online survey, which was also published in the village magazine. As a result of this survey, an initial list of requested support was drawn up such as visiting or befriending residents, providing transport for appointments, form filling, reading to partially sighted or blind people, providing carers a break or preparing emergency meals, to name but a few.

Research about good neighbour schemes was undertaken and a good model was found in the Rural Community Council of Essex. Steve also made contact with some other groups in Cambridgeshire so he could learn from their experience and duplicate their documentation, such as Health & Safety policy, registration forms, volunteer handbooks, as well as privacy and safeguarding policy. All of these documents are required for grants applications, so a little work to start with will be used in many positive fund raising ways, going forward.

More information on this group can be obtained by emailing

New Age Kurling is a form of the original curling game, but adapted so that it can be played indoors on any smooth, flat surface, such as a sports hall, rather than ice. 

Kurling can be played when standing or sitting by people of all ages and abilities. This makes it a great choice for involving everyone.

The Papworth group meets on Fridays, 10.30am to 12pm, in the Village Hall.

How did they get started?

New Age Kurling sessions at Papworth Village Hall were started up by Ellen Bridges, our previous Physical Activity Coordinator. She wanted to set up a sporting activity which was particularly inclusive in Papworth, New Age Kurling seemed ideal. 

Working with the parish council, Ellen arranged local publicity to recruit members, organised the kit and booked the venue. 

6 participants attended the first Kurling session at Papworth, now they get an average of 15 participants each week.

Whilst many participants see the activity promoted in their local magazine, some find out about the session through friends and family and others are signposted by their General practice (GP).  

The group has now become sustainable with a couple of participants volunteering to take over the organisation of the session.

How is it funded? 

The kit used for the initial sessions was supplied free of charge by us. Hall rental was £30 per session for the initial sessions, this was also covered by us.

Now that the group is up and running, participants pay £3 each per session.

The main set up cost is for the New Age Kurling set, which costs £235. 

The Parish Council purchased three New Age Kurling sets to enable the group to continue.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

Support with all aspects of setting up a new group, including funding towards start up costs was provided by the Council’s Physical Activity Locality Coordinator, Leah Collis.

Leah is the district co-ordinator for the Let's Get Moving Cambridgeshire initiative funded by County Council Health Committee.

Contact Leah by email at

What are Men's Sheds?

Men's Sheds are places to enjoy making and mending in a sociable environment, where members can build friendships as well as share knowledge and skills.

Men’s Sheds are an idea from Australia where several were set up in the 1990s in order to promote greater social activity, improved mental health and better physical well-being for men.  Despite the name, they don’t need to be men only, and they don’t need to take place in a shed. 

RamShed is a Men’s Shed in Ramsay, which is open 3 times a week, with its members working on various projects for their local community. 

How did they get started?

Mick Arthur set up Ramsey’s Men’s Shed following a trip to Australia in March 2017, where he saw one in operation. He returned to England with inspiration to start his own shed and started RamShed.

He initially consulted with The Royal Voluntary Service and UK Men's Shed Association, in order to get set up.

He successfully applied to ASDA for a start-up grant then advertised in the local paper. He found 4 enthusiastic “shedders” to help him set up a committee and spread the word.

Mick has been extremely lucky with premises, a local farmer offered the group space in an empty barn which they have renovated.

They now meet 3 times a week doing various projects for their landlord, the council and local community groups.

How is it funded?

Ramshed was really lucky with funding, successfully applying to ASDA for £1000. They used this to install the electrics and buy some basic tools and equipment.

Members are asked to pay a £30 per annum subscription.

A £1 per visit levy is requested if they are working on personal project, this levy is waived when working on Ramshed projects.

RamShed pay £15 per annum to maintain their membership to the Men’s Shed Association.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

RamShed got support from the UK Men’s Shed Association and the Royal Voluntary Service.

Guidance for setting up your own Men's Shed

Excellent support is available from the UK Men’s Shed Association, who can help you find existing Sheds in your area, provide advice and guidance on starting a shed by phone and email and provide access to their Starting a Shed guide and health and safety templates. Joining the Association is inexpensive and brings additional benefits.

Support is also offered by the Royal Voluntary Service. They have a Sheds Grants Fund, thanks to funding from the ASDA Foundation, which provides small scale funding to Sheds looking for help with either set up or early development costs.

You may be able to get a grant for start-up costs such as training or furniture from our Community Chest Grant

For more information contact Alex Barrett on 07990 525 810 or

What is the Histon and Impington Community Minibus?

Histon and Impington Community (HICOM) is a registered charity who run the HICOM Minibus.

The minibus is used to provide door-to-door services for elderly residents, to help them get to local shops and to the Doctors surgery. 

One shopping trip is scheduled per week with the destinations rotating between: Aldi/Iceland, Tesco, Morrisons and the Village centre. Residents book their place by calling the transport co-ordinator. There is also a dedicated Doctors Surgery service that is run on Thursday mornings and residents can call the Surgery in order to book this.

When not in use for regular trips the minibus is available for local community and youth groups, organisations, sport teams and charities. It is usually available in the evenings and weekends.

How did they get started?

Histon and Impington have had a minibus to benefit the elderly in our community since 1976. The Red Cross purchased one using a bequest from a local resident. This was replaced in 1991 using the bequest and funds from the Histon Feast. 

HICOM was formed in 1998 as a result of the Red Cross bus ceasing operation. HICOM purchased their own bus as a replacement.

A legacy was passed down from the Red Cross, along with a successful application to the National Lottery, allowed HICOM to purchase the first of the now familiar blue buses. 

How is it funded? 

A donation is requested from each resident for the shopping trips.  The Thursday morning doctors surgery service costs are paid by the surgery.

A mileage charge of 80p per mile is made for group usage.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

Community Transport Association (CTA) and County Council Community Transport

For more information visit the HICOM website or for an informal chat on setting up your own community minibus, contact Neil Davies on 01223 232 514.

Compass Café is a community café connecting people, raising funds for local good causes and providing opportunities for volunteering.

It operates every Thursday morning out of the Bethel Baptist Church in Swavesey.

Four organisations run the café (the Anglican church, the Baptist Church, the WI and the Swavesey Festival Committee); each taking a monthly turn to provide volunteers and home baked cakes.

On the occasional fifth Thursday in the month, one of several other village organisations steps in.

Health Visitors also run their clinic alongside the café once a month and toys are provided for young children.

How did they get started?

The idea came from Swavesey WI walking group who had seen a community café in another village. They approached local groups to see if there was any interest, then had a meeting to discuss and share their ideas. After, they consulted their local councillor who shared some invaluable knowledge surrounding food hygiene rules which led to them scrapping the lunch idea and settling on cake as the primary source of sustenance!

A venue was found when the Baptist Church offered their building free of charge.

The committee is made up of one person from each of the representative groups, who each take a turn in running the meetings alternating weekly.

The initial price structure was £1 for hot drinks and 50p each for cake and squash but this was later reviewed, by way of a survey to the customers, and cake is now £1 and squash is free.  

The committee chose the name and logo, based on the Greenwich Meridian going through Swavesey. They set about advertising their meetings through posters spread throughout the village as well as an 'A' board outside the Baptist Church on their meeting days.

Visit the Compass Café webpage for more information.

How is it funded?

The Café is a very low cost venture.

Initial funding was provided by the four main groups that run the meetings who put in £20 each. This was later repaid out of the café’s profits.

The Café retains 10% of the weekly takings to top up consumables and the other 90% is kept by the relevant group on the day. Around £3000 is raised each year through the café for the organisations running it and for other good causes.

The Café is such a huge success that the committee no longer need to meet regularly. The only real need to meet now is to discuss who to donate the excess kitty money to. The 10% weekly contributions now more than cover the costs of tea, cake and coffee.    

Who helped with advice and guidance?

The café was set up by the 4 organisations and did not require external advice.

The Well-brahams is a mental health and well-being initiative in Great and Little Wilbraham. A group of people with different experiences and qualifications have come together to organise activities and provide information and help on mental health issues for local residents.

How did they get started?

A group of villagers in Great Wilbraham were interested in mental health and this led to a Mental Health First Aid training course being in the village over a weekend. 

In the words of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Centre, mental health education "empowers people to care for themselves and others, and by reducing the stigma through understanding, breaks down barriers to the support that people may need to stay well, recover, or manage their symptoms – to thrive in learning, work and life".

The course was very popular and led to creating the group, the Well-brahams.

So far, the group has created an online directory with information on where to get help for mental health issues and organised speaker events on Adolescent Mental Health, Dementia and Anti-depressants.

They have also held a painting workshop and set up a walking group.

How is it funded? 

The parish council provided £200 for the costs of the initial training. This covered hiring the meeting room, refreshments and providing each course member with the official MHFA book which the course is base on. The training itself was provided at no charge by a local resident trained in delivering MHFA. 

Subsequent expenses have been minimal – just meeting room hire and printing of publicity. Members donate refreshments and their time, for example to develop the website. Speakers have not charged for talks.

Summer garden parties held by a local benefactor have raised sufficient funds to cover all costs allowing the surplus to be donated to two local mental health charities.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

The Well-brahams has not needed external advice and guidance. They have been able to find help and skills within the group, such as website design, advertising, event organising and more.

It is not a formally constituted organisation – expenses are minimal and it has been possible to keep everything informal.  

Other useful information

For Mental Health First Aid courses in Cambridgeshire, call the Changepoint Team at Everyone Health on 0333 005 0093.

They may be able to run a course free of charge as part of their contract with Cambridgeshire County Council.  Courses usually have up to 12 places.  It’s good to have a mix of gender and background and a range of ages on the course. 

Otherwise Mental Health First Aid England can put you in contact with a local trainer. 

A 2-day course normally costs around £750. 

More information can be found on The Well-brahams website. They also have a Facebook page and are on Twitter.

Hildersham Parish Church employs a Parish Nurse who works 3 days a week, serving the needs of residents in Hildersham and six nearby villages.

The project is funded by charitable donations from local residents, trusts and parish councils. 

The Parish Nurse has an average of 80 patient contacts each month, working in various ways, for example:

  • Accompanying a patient to a health appointment
  • Giving simple advice about a health issue over the phone
  • Checking a patient fully understands and can carry out clinical instructions
  • Helping in the planning of end-of-life care
  • Co-ordinating the support of friends, family and local volunteers

The Parish Nurse works closely with statutory agencies, including the local GP surgery where she has an honorary contract allowing access to medical records.

How did they get started?

In 2012 some villagers in West Wratting identified considerable gaps in care, rehabilitation service provision and problems with existing services. Neighbours and friends did their bit but their efforts were uncoordinated.

Carers needed information, as well as help and support in caring for people with dementia, long-term conditions, terminal illness, people with disability. They knew there were also people with alcohol dependency, mental illness, who were being abused and needed help.

They approached the local vicar to see if something could be done. A group of local people met to discuss the issues. They wanted to develop something holistic, encompassing physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being, which worked for and with local communities. A group meeting was held at the village hall, looking at a variety of options.

They chose the Parish Nurse model because they felt it was the safest and best option. It functions under a professional body (RCN), provides supervision and training, focuses on the person as a whole and covers all age groups.

Although attached to the Church, the nurse will serve all, whatever their faith or if they have none. 

The local Anglican Ministry team covering the villages of Great and Little Abington, Hildersham, Weston Colville, Balsham, West Wratting and West Wickham undertook to lead this process.  With populations ranging from 200 to 1500, no one village was large enough to develop an initiative on its own, but the seven villages together, with a total population of 4500, created significant opportunities for learning as well as development.

They agreed the post would be paid (unlike many other Parish Nurse posts) so that it could be sustainable in the longer term, and that it would be part time (all that could be afforded).  To learn and better understand how this post works within and between villages and other agencies, they decided it would be set up as a 3-year project with inbuilt evaluation. 

A formal Steering Group was set up to progress the work. After a considerable amount of work, Hildersham Parochial Church Council agreed to employ (and be responsible for) the nurse and project, on behalf of the other churches.  

How is it funded? 

All funding needed for the 3 years had to be secured before the project could start. The Steering Group had naively assumed they could obtain all the funding from Charitable Trusts but feedback from Trusts indicated they would have to demonstrate local support, not only in principle, but financially.

They were fortunate to have access to excellent practical advice pro bono from an independent fundraising company on how they might progress. By September 2015, they succeeded in raising enough of the total budget to proceed with the appointment process. More than a third of funding came from local individual contributions, about a half from (local and other) Charitable Trusts, local Churches, the Ely Diocese, and three Parish Councils also contributed.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

Numerous individuals and organisations helped with advice and guidance. 

The independent fundraising company has given advice which was crucial in enabling the project to progress.

Parish Nursing Ministries UK – through their Regional Co-ordinator - provided advice which enabled the project to become an accredited Parish Nurse Service, as expected.

A voluntary Management Team brings considerable knowledge and skills to the project. The team comprises a local GP, a retired Director of Addenbrooke's Trust, a retired Public Health Medicine Consultant and a nurse who is also a Trustee of Hildersham PCC, (the vicar of Hildersham was included until she left her post). 

The Parish Nurse benefits from continuing support from the Parish Nurse Ministry, the management team, the primary care team, other organisations with which she has established links, the Church Ministry team and from volunteers in the communities she serves.   

Find out more about Parish Nursing on the Parish Nursing Ministries UK website.

Haslingfield & Harlton Luncheon Club provides a monthly lunch to over 30 diners in Haslingfield Methodist church.  

It is run by volunteers who prepare the 2 course home-cooked meal in their own homes, and serve it up in the church building followed by tea and coffee. Volunteer drivers collect those who would otherwise be unable to attend. The club is open to all, providing a meeting place for old friends, as well as a chance to meet new ones. 

How did they get started?

When the Methodist Church building was extended the community was keen to make the best possible use of the improved premises. Although there were evening activities available in the village, there was nothing during the day and so the idea of a lunch club was born. There was an enthusiastic response to an initial meeting and the lunch club started up in 2003.

Volunteer cooks, drivers and helpers were easy to recruit. People sign up as to when they can help. 

Each month, one of a number of Team Leaders takes charge of organising volunteers, deciding the menu and buying and distributing ingredients. All the cooks have completed Food Safety courses, which the club organises from time to time.

Diners were easy to recruit when the club started up, and over the years new ones have joined. The average age has got older with more in their 90s, and fewer in their 70s than in the club’s early days.  

How is it funded? 

The club is self-funding with a charge for diners covering costs of ingredients, a small rent for the rooms and public liability insurance.

The local Village Fund provided £200 towards set up costs but the club was able to pay this back.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

Care Network helped the group set up its constitution. 

Histon and Impington Older Persons Coordinator are employed by local charity HICOM to work 30 hours per week supporting elderly residents. 

As well as meeting with older people and their families and signposting them to existing services such as meals on wheels, emergency pendants and handy persons schemes, she supports existing voluntary initiatives such as village groups for stroke survivors, singing and exercise, and encourages the formation of new ones. 

She also writes regular articles for the local village newsletter and attends the doctors surgery for a weekly session where she is on hand to meet residents and provide information. 

The Village Older Peoples worker is now supported by a Village Dementia Support worker.

How did they get started?

In 2010, one of the HICOM (Histon and Impington Community) charity trustees, Neil Davies, put forward an idea for a Village Older Persons Worker to help enhance the quality of life for older residents in the villages of Histon and Impington.

HICOM was already a very active established local charity and in 2011 they recruited a local lady, Jean Newman, to the post of Older Persons Worker.

Her role, to address four key issues:

  • An increase in the number of older people in the community
  • an increase in the elderly being encouraged to stay in their own homes
  • a reduction in wardens in sheltered units, and
  • increased feelings of isolation and loneliness amongst the elderly.

How is it funded? 

A mix of the Village Parish Council support plus community fundraising and groups.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

Village stakeholder groups originally met to discuss the project and have been regularly involved since.

For further information, contact Neil Davies by telephone on 01223 232 514.

Mobile Warden Schemes support older people to live independently in their homes and in the community they know.

Melbourn is the largest of around 12 Mobile Warden (sometimes known as Community Warden) schemes, operating in South Cambridgeshire.

The Melbourn scheme serves around 50 mobility impaired clients in Melbourn, Shepreth and Meldreth. It employs 6 wardens, and is operated by a local charity run by a committee of volunteers.

As well as making regular visits and phone calls to provide social contact and friendship, carrying out errands and helping clients access other support, the scheme also organises regular outings and activities including a lunch club.

How did they get started?

The Melbourn Mobile Warden Scheme was taken over, in its current guise, in 2010 with the help of Cllr Jose Hales. At the time it was serving 17 people with only the 1 warden.

Funding was secured from Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and their local Parish Council.

The scheme is registered as a Charity, this allows the scheme to access certain funding and gives security to ensure the scheme is compliant with rules and regulations.

They marketed the scheme using many local channels including the doctor’s surgery, building society, local churches, leafleting and the Melbourn magazine.

They now have around 50 clients and have just recruited their sixth warden to the team.

How is it funded?

The main cost in running the Melbourn Mobile Warden Scheme is warden salaries.

Additional costs include:

  • insurance
  • Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) checks (previously CRB checks)
  • events
  • transport, and
  • a small amount of advertising and the costs of printing the newsletter.

The scheme is successfully funded by a combination of grants (from Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and local parish councils), donations and client fees.

Clients pay a monthly charge of £28 for a single person or £32 for a couple.

Melbourn Mobile Warden Scheme accounts can be viewed on the Charity Register.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

The committee worked closely with the Charity Commission in order to make the necessary changes to become a registered charity.

They also worked with Care Network in the initial set-up.

Other useful information

Several local Mobile Warden Schemes (but not the Melbourn one) are managed by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Age UK. They employ the warden, deal with safeguarding and training issues and liaise with a local committee. 

Care Network Cambridgeshire can provide free help and advice on setting up a mobile warden scheme.

To contact them, please ring or email the main office on 01954 211919 or and ask for the South Cambs Development Officer.

Find out more information on our Mobile Warden Grant scheme webpage.

We may also be able to help with set up costs for new schemes. Contact the Development Officer for your patch.

Find contact details for the Melbourn Mobile Warden Scheme on their website.

Timebanking is a means of exchange used to organise people around a purpose, where time is the principle currency. Timebanks are a great way to promote volunteering and help people get to know and lend a hand to each other.

A Timebank is set up with a coordinator to oversee activities and local people join as members, they make offers or ask for requests of help.

Different people have strengths in different areas, Timebanking is a simple way to give and receive time equally.

Anyone interested in joining a Timebank can do so free of charge. When new members join, they are invited to list what help they can offer, and the help they would like to receive; for example, shopping, help with form filling, help with phone calls, woodwork, knitting, DIY, cutting grass and helping with pets. They are then put in touch with others who need their skills, or can help them.

Everyone’s skills are valued equally, with each hour of help earning one hour of help back.

Cambourne Timebank was set up in 2012 and now has over 100 members. Last year they exchanged over 1,250 hours of time. Gardening make-overs and visiting older residents to collect stories from the past years were just two of many projects volunteers worked on.

Cambourne Timebank is co-ordinated by a part-time staff member employed by housing association, CHS Group.

How did they get started?

In the early years of the development of Cambourne Timebank, a consortium of Housing Associations employed a full time Community Development Worker. In addition they worked with one of our Community Development workers.

Early members of the Timebank came from volunteers in other community groups and projects and people who had engaged in activities run by the Community Development worker.

Key members formed a panel to help run the Timebank. They visited other Timebanks to see how they were run.

How is it funded?

The Timebank has received funding for projects from a range of sources including Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP), Cambridgeshire County Council Innovation Fund, and Skills for Care. We have joined with other Timebanks in the Cambridgeshire Timebanking Partnership to run fundraising campaigns including an art exhibition and a crowdfunding campaign.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

Somersham Timebank and Cambridgeshire County Council provided advice and support, for example to develop policies for adult safeguarding.

Timebanking UK is a national charity providing inspiration, information and practical support for Timebanking to become a part of everyday life for everyone. Their website is full of useful information including an excellent step-by-step guide to setting up a Timebank.

How did they get started?

A small group of people came up with the idea of starting a Northstowe community group on sustainability, zero waste and other green issues. The initial ideas were a  community-run refill station (household products, food, skincare/hygiene) & and non-plastic products, and a 'sustainability hub' to host a repair café & share library (e.g. tools, toys, cookware), but after the first meeting in September 2020, they expanded to other topics such as recycling, toys/clothes/plant swaps and trees, wildlife and gardening. They held monthly online meetings until May when they had their first physical meeting where they became formally constituted.

How is it funded?

Grants and donations (none received/applied for yet). In addition, they receive a small amount from the pitch fees from monthly refill station and a stall with plastic-free household products.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

They received help and tips from SCDC community development officer, SCDC Project Officer, Climate & Environment, CCVS, Care Network, and other local groups in Northstowe  (e.g. Northstowe Foodies, Northstowe Social) and like-minded groups in neighbouring towns  (Histon and Impington Sustainability Group, Sustainable Cottenham).

Other useful information

The group takes part in the Northstowe Community Networkers monthly meeting where community groups, churches, community developer officers and relevant stakeholders update each other coordinate events and actions. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

2G3S (Green Groups in the Shelfords, Stapleford and Sawston) is a non-party-political group which was set up in 2015 to promote green activity in our local villages and to share green ideas. They hold planning/discussion meetings every six weeks or so, and put on occasional events, including films, Repair Cafes, and talks. They also publish a quarterly newsletter.

How did they get started?

The group succeeded the Stapleford Environment Group, which was one of a number of Focus Groups set up under the Village Plan in 2012.  The original intention was that it would be a kind of umbrella group, working alongside Sustainable Shelford and Greener Sawston.  However Sustainable Shelford has since disbanded.

How is it funded?

They inherited some funds from Sustainable Shelford; otherwise they rely on donations at the events they hold.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

They are fortunate to have several expert and experienced members within the group who can advise on such matters as transport, energy, land use, planning etc.

Other useful information

Mission statement: 2G3S aims to promote a positive vision of a society that enhances, rather than degrades, the natural environment on which we all depend.  We hold events in our constituent villages and spread information to raise awareness of green issues and to show how we can work together, both at an individual and at an organisational level, to make changes to our way of life that will lead to a more stable and sustainable future.

Further details can be found on their webpage or by emailing

Marmalade Lane, in Orchard Park is the home of Cambridgeshire's first cohousing community. Cohousing is a form of housing more common in Northern Europe. Cohousing communities are intentional communities, created and run by their residents. Each household has a self-contained, private home as well as shared community space. Residents come together to manage their community, share activities, and regularly eat together. Cohousing is a way of resolving the isolation many people experience today, recreating the neighbourly support of the past.  

How did they get started?

What was initially called the K1 Cohousing Project started after developers withdrew from purchasing a land parcel called K1 in Orchard Park following the financial crash in 2008. The land owners, Cambridge City Council, subsequently decided to explore the feasibility of cohousing for the site as a way of developing the site and achieving, alongside money from the sale of the land, additional policy objectives around sustainability, quality, and community.  Some people interested in living in a cohousing community formed a cohousing group and set up Cambridge Cohousing Ltd, a company limited by guarantee in 2013. 

How is it funded?

Initially, the project was funded with the assistance of government grant funding. This enabled the cohousing group to have the benefit of project management from Instinctively Green, legal advice from Anthony Collins solicitors, and help to develop a client brief and outline scheme design from Cambridge Architectural Research. Once the client brief and outline scheme design were developed the land was put out to tender by the City Council to find an enabling development partner willing to work with the cohousing group and enable the development of the cohousing scheme. 

The K1 land parcel had been designated for market sale homes and so homes in the cohousing scheme were to be sold at market value once developed but with a small discount to recognise the contribution made by early members of the cohousing group.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

TOWN, a new development company, in partnership with Trivselhus UK, a subsidiary of a Swedish manufacturer and development of environmentally friendly timber homes, was appointed as enabling developer in 2015. Mole Architects, an award-winning Cambridge-based architectural practice, were appointed as the architects. Members of the cohousing group were able to work alongside TOWN and Mole in the design and development of the cohousing scheme.

In December 2018 the first residents were able to move in and Cambridge Cohousing Community had a home, in Marmalade Lane, the name the cohousing group had chosen for their car-free lane. The residents now collectively own and run their community.

Other useful information

Sustainability is important to most cohousing communities. The cohousing community has developed a car sharing scheme where an electric and hybrid car are shared by a number of households. They host the Orchard Park Shared Electric Cargo Trike scheme, funded by South Cambridgeshire District Council as part of its zero carbon communities grant scheme and Cambridgeshire County Council from EU grant money to promote use of cargo bikes. Like most cohousing communities, residents of Cambridge Cohousing are active in their local neighbourhood.  Each month they organise a monthly rubbish ramble in Orchard Park. During 2021 they organised pop-up cafes in the parks in Orchard Park, with grant money from the National Lottery Local Connections Fund.  

Cambridge Cohousing is open to visitors (ideally for pre-arranged visits) and welcomes sharing ideas and learning with other community-led organisations. Cambridge Cohousing Community is a member of the UK Cohousing Network - a membership network that offers peer-support to cohousing groups at all stages in their cohousing journey. 

More information on this group can be obtained by emailing:  

Longstanton and Northstowe have joined a network of communities across the UK who are leading the way to tackle throw away plastic at source. In a Cambridgeshire first, the area has been awarded Plastic Free Community status by marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), in recognition of the work it has done to start reducing the impact of single-use plastic on the environment.

How did they get started?

Chris Poultney, local campaigner and community lead of Plastic Free Longstanton and Northstowe, started working on this in 2019 after visiting Cornwall on holiday and was inspired by all the actions that were being taken to remove single use plastic and make changes.

How is it funded?

It is entirely volunteer and community led.

Who helped with advice and guidance?

Registering with the SAS Plastic Free Communities movement, Chris pulled together key organisations and businesses in the local area to put in place a five-point plan. The objectives included; setting up a community led steering group, instigating the SAS Plastic Free Schools education programme, getting local council commitment and working with local businesses, organisations and community groups to spread the word and minimise the amount of disposable plastics they use.

Other useful information

Members of a community sustainability group arranged for a pop-up refill station stall in the main Northstowe square to sell cleaning and personal hygiene products in containers costumers brought from home. On both occasions there was a great turn out from residents from the local area and surroundings, helping save about 180 bottles. After such successful pilots, the organisers decided that the refill station should come back on a monthly basis.

You can find out more about Plastic Free Longstanton and Northstowe on their Facebook page or by emailing

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