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The importance of the reference to huts in the new Scottish Planning Policy.

Simple huts for recreational use have been a feature of our rural landscape since the 1920s.  They played an important part in the development of the interwar outward bound movement, providing a way for people of modest means to get out of the cities and enjoy the countryside.  Scotland’s hutting movement is part of a wider tradition most frequently associated with Scandinavia, but found right across northern Europe.

In the post-War period, hutting went into decline in Scotland.  In the 1960s, rising disposable incomes ushered in the era of package holidays abroad.  Tenure was found to be precarious as new landowners proved to be less sympathetic to the movement than their predecessors and sought to remove huts from their land.  But the successful campaign by the Carbeth hutters to secure their future through community ownership of their site has contributed to a revival of interest in hutting more generally.

Tea-with-the-neighbours---credit-M-Gregor Hutters relaxing at Carbeth

The inclusion of a supportive reference to huts in the new Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) is seen as important to the revival of our hutting tradition. Until now, there has been no specific provision for huts in Scottish policy or legislation and many aspiring hutters have seen this as an obstacle to new development.  Paragraph 79 of Scottish Planning Policy identifies huts as one of the types of leisure accommodation for which development plans should make provision where appropriate.   A hut is defined as “a simple building used intermittently as recreational accommodation (i.e. not a principal residence); having an internal floor area of no more than 30m2; constructed from low impact materials; generally not connected to mains water, electricity or sewerage; and built in such a way that it is removable with little or no trace at the end of its life.”  SPP indicates that huts may be built singly or in groups.

One of the attractions of hutting is the opportunity it offers to apply or develop design and building skills.  For many, the community dimension of hutting is an important element of its appeal and for groups of huts an accessible site will be important.  However, for some, the goal may be a secluded retreat in a more remote rural location.  There is room in Scotland’s countryside to accommodate both types of development provided care is taken to avoid adverse impacts on communities and the environment.


Ninian Stuart at his hut near Falkland

The Thousand Huts campaign is working on guidelines on good practice in hutting development.  It is engaging with the local community with a view to pursuing a pilot development on Forestry Commission land near Saline, in Fife.  Discussions are continuing with the Scottish Government on security of tenure, building standards and possible changes to planning regulations.

Planners can play an important role in ensuring that many more people in Scotland have access to a little hut in the countryside where they can relax and enjoy nature with their families.

This article was published in the Autumn 2014 issue of the Scottish Planner.