Discover how a group of boaters from Uxbridge formed a co-op to make mooring more affordable and create a ‘greener’ community…
Lizzie Davison lives on a canal boat with her family. Along with some of her fellow boaters, she wanted to take greater control of her environment. “We decided to set up our own community moorings controlled by us rather than a private company,” she explained.
“We also wanted to give something back to the local community and create a space for local people to visit, enjoy and mix with the boating community.”
After spreading the word, a core group of 12 like-minded people from eight boats came together. They decided to set-up a co-operative to achieve their aims. And the West London Community Moorings (WELCOM) co-op was born.
Traditionally, boaters pay private companies or the Canal and River Trust (CRT) for their moorings. For Lizzie and co, joining together to form a co-operative reduces costs and gives members greater freedom to develop the mooring into a site that fits with their values.
“We are looking at getting an annual lease from the CRT and instead of paying individually, we pay a lump sum per year for that, and divide it up within our group,” she said.
“We’d also have control of our own environment. We want to manage the land to do the best we can for sustainable living – with solar panels on boats, water filtration systems and generating electricity without plugging into the network.
“The aim is to have a sustainable community where we have control and we’re not dictated to by a company that says if we can or can’t have a shed. We’re keen to lead our lives in the way we want.”
To set up WELCOM, Lizzie and her fellow boaters received help from Co-operatives UK’s Business Support for Co-ops, delivered in partnership with The Co-operative Bank. This help came in the form of expert consultancy from Co-op Development Advisor Richard Howlett of co-operative business advisors Principle Six.
“None of us had experience in what a co-op was,” Lizzie recalled. “We didn’t know how to go about becoming a co-operative. So it was really good to have advice from somebody who knew the process. Richard knew we’d need to be a legal entity to pursue our project.
“He helped us come up with our organisation’s rules and things like making decisions about voting and what our constitution, legal framework and rules of membership would be.”
In addition to this Richard supported the group with financial planning and cost projections. He guided them in sourcing a co-op-principled accountant and put them in touch with other co-op boating groups such as Surge. “They have been fantastic in giving us advice,” said Lizzie.
“Richard also helped us with our application to be incorporated as a co-op and he’s still helping us with our business plan. It’s been invaluable to have someone there to push us along and keep up momentum.”
“Co-operatives UK is fantastic and we’ve also had a lot of help from their Advice Team, in particular Dane Pollard and Irena Piston, who supported us with governance and FCA regulations.”
Currently in negotiations with the CRT to secure a site in the Harefield area, along the Grand Union Canal, the WELCOM team are looking forward to realising their co-ops’ potential for giving back to the community.
“We’d like to run workshops and teach people about waterside living. We’re hoping to create an area where locals can come and sit near the lock – a nice space they can enjoy. And we want to plant an edible garden for boaters and local people to help themselves to in the summer months.”