Ten ways to make huts affordable for all

A beautiful small hut in the woods1. Affordable organising: Follow the traditional hut site model. What we are calling the traditional hut site model is actually a modernised version. The traditional model is that hutters pay ground rent to a landowner (which could be an individual or a public body or community organisation). We are recommending that groups of hutters in a hut site then form a Hutters’ Trust (or similar body) to manage the site. This Trust can be responsible for sharing costs and work to make the site viable for all. As a constitituted group, this Trust may also have more access to funding to help with these costs.

2. Affordable rents: Practice fair hutting. We have created a Voluntary Code of Conduct between Hutters and Landowners. It sets out points to form the basis of a fair tenancy agreement between hutter and landowner.

3. Buying land: Individuals getting together to share the costs. With land prices as they are, owning land is not necessarily a viable option for an individual for affordable hutting. However, one of the ways it may become possible is if a group of people get together to share the cost of land purchase and site development. It is worth keeping an eye on property auctions and an ear to the grapevine to find out when more affordable parcels of land become available. The Thousand Huts Facebook group is another good way of hearing what is available. It may also be worth looking at possible legal structures for this type of group – following the model of housing co-operatives, for example, may be useful.

4. Buying land: Community groups purchasing a site. In recent years there has been a rise in support for community ownership of assets. You will find a wealth of experience of this within bodies like the Development Trusts Association or the Community Woodlands Association. It can be done, with lots of hard work!

5. Renting land: Find a friendly landowner. Landowners may sometimes get bad press, but you may be surprised by how many of them want to use their land for social benefit. Many are keen to get people back on their land and to feel that they are sharing what they have. We have been approached by many landowners who are interested in having a hut site on their land, and we plan to create a database of these opportunities. They all have different motivations – and though they will need to keep their business financially viable, many would like to see their land being used in a way that would increase the wellbeing of people in their area. It is well worth approaching a landowner to see what they would think of the possibility of a hut site on their land. If an affordable ground rent is set, with good conditions, as set out in the Voluntary Code of Conduct between Hutters and Landowners, renting ground from a supportive landlord could be an achievable way of accessing land. It should be remembered, too, that with farm incomes at a low, the ground rent from huts could provide a landowner with an attractive income stream and, as long as ground rents are set at a fair level for both parties, this economic benefit can also be used to persuade a landlord to allow huts on their land.

6. Affordable building: Two out of three. It is a great truism of building that you can only have two of the three qualities (quick, cheap and good) that you may wish from your build. So you could spend a lot of money on labour and materials and end up with a quick and good building, but it won’t be cheap. You could spend lots of time sourcing reclaimed materials and working on your build yourself, and you may end up with a good building, but it won’t be quick. Or you can build quickly and cheaply, but perhaps not end up with the best quality! A cheap building is possible, but it will cost you time and work.

7. Affordable building: Keep it basic! Of course you can also build something affordable by aiming for something very small and simple, using reclaimed materials. There is a huge amount of waste from the construction industry, and companies often have to pay to dispose of it and are only too happy if you can take unwanted materials off their hands. For example glaziers often have a stack of windows removed from other buildings and waiting to go in a skip. While some of these will be sub-standard, there will often be great opportunities to source good windows for free by this method. Last week I got a large double-glazed, toughened glass unit which would have cost me £200 if I had to order it. You have to spend a fair bit of time going round your local companies to see where the opportunities are, but once you have found your source it can be a great way of reducing your costs. However, you do need access to a van for this sort of salvage.

8. Sharing your hut. A really great way to keep hutting affordable would be for groups of friends to share a hut. That way the costs of the build and ground rent can be spread much further. If anyone is already doing this, or working on it as a possibility, we’d love to hear from you.

9. Subsidise an affordable hut on your site. If you are already part of a group running a hut site, perhaps your group might consider making a hut available at a subsidised rate to people who could not otherwise afford it. Or possibly making a partnership with a community organisation who might be able to give access to the hut for people they work with.

10. Build a smaller hut! Remember that 30m2 is the maximum size for a hut under the definition in Scottish Planning Policy. You will save a lot of money by simply building a much smaller hut.

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Huts feature in new RS magazine

RS57-cover-tryout-FINALCalling all hutters! The new issue of the fabulous Reforesting Scotland journal has a distinctly hutty flavour! The theme is A Place to Be, and it contains all the latest info about huts developments.

To get your copy, become a member of Reforesting Scotland at www.reforestingscotland.org, come to our lovely Annual Gatherings and receive the journal twice a year.

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Order now: Huts feature in the new Reforesting Scotland journal

RS56-cover-smallCalling all hutters! The next issue of the fabulous Reforesting Scotland journal will have a distinctly hutty flavour! The theme is A Place to Be, and it will contain all the latest info about huts developments. Before 20th February you can pre-order a copy at www.reforestingscotland.org/what-we-do/donating-to-rs. – To get a copy, you need to donate £5. When you get to the section that says “Add special instructions to the seller:”, please simply put the word “Journal” into the box. You will be sent a copy of the next issue when it is ready in mid March. (right is an image of the cover of the last issue). Better still, become a member of Reforesting Scotland at www.reforestingscotland.org and support our campaigns and receive the journal twice a year.

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Huts and music go hand in hand

Just because it’s lovely, and we don’t talk enough about the importance of huts for creativity, here’s The Hut Set, from Phil Cunningham, Aly Bain, John McCusker and friends…

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Hutters’ Rally 2017: High points and plans for the future

On 18th November over 225 people gathered for a sell-out Hutters’ Rally in Edinburgh. This was the biggest Rally yet – and attracted many new participants we hadn’t seen at previous gatherings. One of the highlights of the day was the launch of the Register of Interest for the new hut site at Carnock, Fife.

The sense of momentum at this crucial point in the development of the new Hutting Movement was palpable. Around a third of the attendees were people who had access to land and wanted to start a hut site. Another third were potential hutters who want to start a hut site and do not yet have access to land. The remaining people are folk who would like a hut of their own – either alone, or joining in another site. So one of the most pressing needs coming from this gathering of people was to unite the people with access to land, with those who don’t have land, and also to connect people who would like to form a hutters group in a particular area. The campaign has some serious matchmaking to do!

unnamed-2

Planning consultant Richard Heggie shows a map of some current planning processes for new hut sites.

The day started out with a series of presentations: this was the opportunity for the attendees to get the latest updates from the campaign: the policies, the regulations and the tools. Then there was the moment that everyone had been waiting for: the launch of the Register of Interest for the new hutting pilot site at Carnock. Planning consultant Richard Heggie presented the latest information about experiences of planning applications with different Local Authorities. There was also an update from Jonathan Avery of Tiny House Scotland who explained how the tiny homes movement differs from, and relates to, the hutting movement. The presentations finished off with a lovely talk from Simon Raeside who is part of the group forming a hutting site at Falkland. He talked frankly about the challenges to progress a hut site, but how important it was for himself and his family that they have this opportunity in their lives.

In the afternoon participants took part in small workshops to discuss key issues around hutting.

In the afternoon participants took part in small workshops to discuss key issues around hutting.

The afternoon had a wide range of focus groups on issues including construction, off-grid living, planning and access to land. The hall rang with a buzz of enthusiastic conversations on all things hutting.

Some of the key things that people reported from these sessions were:

  • The benefit of meeting like-minded people, not feeling ‘alone’ in our ambitions
  • A realisation of momentum and progress in the campaign
  • The availability of specific advice on planning permissions
  • We need a place where ‘silly’ questions could be asked
  • The Hutting Blog can be a place to pick up tips, share experiences. Barriers overcome by some can inspire others.

People also appreciated learning about land sharing options, including:

  • The need to get would-be hutters and landowners together
  • Good ideas to attract a landowner to sell land
  • Using NFU database to research potential hutting-friendly landowners
  • SAC (SRUC) Farming research sites could be approached
  • Creative thinking about affordable purchases

At the end of the day attendees made pledges for the year to come:

  • 20% pledged to have spent a night in a hut
  • 30% will have won over an existing landowner
  • 50-60% will have a hut design in mind
  • 30% will be on the way to building a hut
  • 60% expect to have new skills to build a hut

 

 

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Register of Interest now closed for Carnock Woods hut site

Carnock-image

A view of Carnock Woods

After a 3.5 month period where people could register an interest in becoming one of the first people to have a hut at Carnock Wood, the register of interest is now closed. We have had an enormous wave of interest in the opportunity. The next step now for those who have registered an interest is to come to an event in May in Dunfermline. After that, those who still wish to apply can become part of a ballot to select the successful hutters.

Carnock Wood, managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES), is the first hutting site of the new era to be given planning permission.   It is the pilot site of the Thousand Huts campaign and it has been a fascinating journey getting so far.

temporary hut northscape

Temporary hut designed by Northscape.

Carnock Wood is a 100 acre wood (roughly) in west Fife, 1.5 miles to the south of the village of Saline.   The locals are welcoming, we have spoken to them.   Most of the wood is pine plantation of various ages but the hutting site is surrounded by broadleaves and is growing a healthy crop of bracken at present.   It looks out to the west and south.

The huts will be owned by individual hutters who will look after them and pay an affordable ground rent to FES.   This figure hasn’t yet been negotiated.   There is room for 12 huts on the site, including 2 which will be made available to local people.   There will also be a school hut or outdoor classroom for the use of schools in the local area.   The huts will look similar to each other with a timber finish but will vary in size and roof type.   There will be a forestry road ending in a car park at the edge of the site but after that everything will need to be carried or wheeled in by wheelbarrow.   The site will not be connected to mains services and there will be no rubbish removal.   There may be a water supply to stand pipes.   No Council Tax will need to be paid, as we understand it.

The 12 hutters or hutting families will automatically be members of the Carnock Hutters Group (CHG) which will be a constituted group with various rules and regulations to protect the hutters and the site.   The group will enter into a lease agreement with FES through the Community Asset Transfer Scheme.   The Thousand Huts campaign will be on hand to guide the hutters through both processes.   We believe that if you get all the rules and ‘what ifs?’ sorted out at the start, then you and the other hutters can concentrate on the serious business of relaxation and exploration.

The Register of Interest for the Carnock hut site has now closed.

Hut designed by Jack Hughes and Lucy Eccles

Hut designed by Jack Hughes and Lucy Eccles

 

If you have any questions please contact carnock@reforestingscotland.org

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Come to the 2017 Hutters’ Rally on 18 November in Edinburgh

Inshriach Bothy built by Bobby Niven and Iain Macleod as part of an RSA residency (thebothyproject.org).

Have you ever wanted your own wee place in the country? A weekend retreat for you, your family and friends? Millions of Scandinavians have that, but almost nobody in Scotland.

Well, there’s a revolution brewing that’s going to make it possible, right here. The Scottish Government has just made it much easier for you to build your own simple, off grid hut.
Come and join us on November 18th in Edinburgh to find out how you can make this happen. Hear from campaigners, hutters, woodworkers, and architects. Meet other self-builders, see designs, perhaps even find land to rent or buy, and talk to dreamers like you who just want to get into the great outdoors and put their feet up – in their own But n’ Ben.

Draft programme for the day (more detail to follow)

11:30am Registration

12 noon – Welcome into the hall. Introductions and presentations on key developments in hutting – planning, building regulations, new hut sites – followed by comments, questions and answers.

13.30 Lunch break – IMPORTANT – PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH

14.15 Small group sessions

17:00 Final Plenary

17.30 Finish

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Huts, planning permission and building regulations

Bobby Niven of the Bothy Project, during the construction of Sweeney's Bothy on Eigg (www.bothyproject.org)

Bobby Niven of the Bothy Project, during the construction of Sweeney’s Bothy on Eigg (www.bothyproject.org)

Here is a summary of the new framework for huts in relation to planning permission and building regulations for those wishing to build new huts:

  • You must apply for planning permission to build a hut. However, the Scottish Planning Policy published in 2014 includes encouragement for planning authorities to consider huts for recreational use, and includes a definition of a hut.
  • In support of this policy, Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign has published the guidance paper New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites which can be used to help applicants or planners considering new hut developments.
  • As of 1st July 2017, there is a new building type (Type 23a) under which huts will be regulated. This is not an exemption from building regulations (a hut still needs to comply with sections of the building regulations),  however huts will have a much lighter regulatory burden in terms of how they are constructed, and in many cases may not require any building warrant at all. See below for more information on huts and building regulations.
  • To help guide hutters through the new regulatory framework for huts we are working to produce an extensive Good Practice Guide to Hut Building. Join our mailing list or facebook page to get the latest news when it is published.

There is often confusion about the difference between planning and building control. Below you will find more detail about each issue. In summary, planning rules are there to manage and control the way that towns and countryside develop. Planners are interested in the siting, design, use and environmental impact of a development. Building Regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings largely to ensure the safety and health for people in or about those buildings. Although the two areas overlap, their key roles and regulation are completely different. They are managed by different staff within planning authorities.

The change in building regulations in relation to huts

Hut designed by Jack Hughes and Lucy Eccles

Hut designed by Jack Hughes and Lucy Eccles

As part of a plan to revive hut culture in Scotland, new legislation came into force on 1st July 2017 to make it easier for people to build a simple hut for recreational use.

The Scottish Government has created a new building type[1] for huts which will reduce the regulatory burden for hut builders, in effect exempting huts from most building regulations, and reducing the need for Building Warrants in key areas of health and safety where regulations still need to be met. Not only will this reduce the burden on hutters, it will also reduce the burden on building standards officers, saving money for local authorities. This change is in response to the recent SG consultation showing widespread support for a relaxing of restrictions on the building of simple woodland huts.

Reforesting Scotland huts campaigner, Peter Caunt ,said, “It’s important to state that hut builders will still be required to apply for planning permission to build a hut. It will then be their own responsibility to ensure they comply with high standards of health and safety, and low environmental impact. Some areas, such as underground drainage, will still require a Building Warrant, whereas in other areas, such as structure, the responsibility is theirs to comply with the relevant regulations. If they don’t comply, they will be liable if something goes wrong.”

To help hutters meet these standards, Reforesting Scotland is producing a Guide to Good Practice in Hut Construction. Last year, the group published a sister document about planning issues for huts, New hutting developments: Good Practice Guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites.[6]

The change in planning policy in relation to huts

Since 2014 Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) encourages local authorities to consider the construction of huts in rural settings for recreational accommodation.

Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign was instrumental in achieving this change in policy. Until it was published, there was no specific provision in Scottish planning policy or legislation for the building of a simple hut or cabin where people can sleep from time to time for leisure and relaxation.

To support the rolling out of Scottish planning policy on huts, we have produced New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites, a document reviewed by planning professionals on a local and national level. This work was funded by the Planning Exchange Foundation.

The guidance is based on the SPP definition of a hut:

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. Huts may be built singly or in groups.

Our guidance covers a wide range of planning considerations including: What is a hut; use patterns of huts; where might huts be built?; services; and matters affecting the land around huts.

As a result of this shift, we are beginning to see new proposals for hut sites coming forward. We recently surveyed over 800 people who would like to have access to a hut for recreational use. The demand is large, and growing. All this will take time, but the first important step has been made. Perhaps the biggest barrier of all – access to land – will be the most challenging. However, hutters will need to think creatively around the opportunities that do exist through private landlords, public landowning bodies and community-owned land, to find opportunities for new hut sites.

 

——

[1] The new Type 23A in Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations covers detached single-storey buildings used for shelter or sleeping in connection with recreation. The type has a number of limitations which include a maximum floor area of 30 square metres, minimum distance to a boundary or other buildings, and maximum floor area of any gallery or galleries. A building warrant would be required if the limitations are not met. Although the new Type 23A does not require a building warrant, construction must meet the requirements of standards 1.1, 3.17 to 3.22 and 4.4 of schedule 5 as provided for by changes to regulation 9 of the building regulations. These cover building structure, combustion appliances and pedestrian protective barriers at changes in level.

[2] Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign has worked for 6 years to achieve these changes and has many thousands of supporters. See www.thousandhuts.org

[3] See Scottish Planning Policy 2014 www.gov.scot/Resource/0045/00453827.pdf

[4] The definition of huts in Scottish Planning Policy is: 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. Huts may be built singly or in groups.

[5] In the new legislation, Type 23A in Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations will apply to huts. In effect, it exempts huts from many building regulations except for some key areas including structure, stoves, barriers and underground drainage. While the hut builder will be required by law to comply with the regulations in these non-exempt areas, in most cases they will not be required to get a Building Warrant (exceptions include underground drainage).

[6] www.thousandhuts.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/160215-Huts-Guidance-FINAL-screen-res.pdf

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‘Huts in Place': a fantastic event as part of Archifringe

temporary hut northscapeLast weekend, an event called 57 degrees North: Huts in Place was held as part of Archifringe, there were two days of huts, bothies, cultural adventures and workshops based at Abriachan forest classroom. You can listen to audio of the various workshops on the link below. Organiser Mairi McFadyen describes what happened:

“We had a great afternoon yesterday up in Abriachan forest discussing all things hutting as part of 57 Degrees North at the Architecture Fringe yesterday. Huge thanks to Lesley Riddoch, Karen Grant of Reforesting Scotland and Highland-based ecologist Emily Hesling for fantastic contributions and to the Forest School for hosting the event. Cakes galore!

Karen spoke about the ongoing campaign and outlined recent policy and legislation. She also highlighted in the cultural importance of the bothy or hut as a space for creativity.


Emily shared some wisdom and insights in terms of environmental considerations when planning a hut build, outlining steps you can take to ensure your hut has as little environmental impact as possible (while an ecological survey is not necessary requirement, it can only add to any proposal). She also discussed creative ways in which a hut could even add to the local biodiversity.

We have recorded these talks with thanks to Chris Wright of Local Voices and these are now available at the link below. We also enjoyed spending time in the new Northscape – Highland show hut – an experiment for the fesitval constructed as far as possible with local materials (much of the wood was sourced from Abriachan forest itself). With thanks to Wild Gorse Studio the hut also showcased work from local artists, designers and makers. The hut builders would love to hear your feedback!
www.northscape.scot

Listen to some of the talks here:

www.northscape.scot/projects-1/2017/7/20/57-degrees-north-huts-in-place

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Scottish Government cuts red tape for new wave of huts

 

Hut designed by Jack Hughes and Lucy Eccles

Hut designed by Jack Hughes and Lucy Eccles

As part of a plan to revive hut culture in Scotland, new legislation came into force on 1st July 2017 to make it easier for people to build a simple hut for recreational use.

The Scottish Government has created a new building type[1] for huts which will reduce the regulatory burden for hut builders, in effect exempting huts from most building regulations, and reducing the need for Building Warrants in key areas of health and safety where regulations still need to be met. Not only will this reduce the burden on hutters, it will also reduce the burden on building standards officers, saving money for local authorities. This change is in response to the recent SG consultation showing widespread support for a relaxing of restrictions on the building of simple woodland huts.

In recent years an enthusiasm for hut life has grown in momentum, spearheaded by the charity Reforesting Scotland[2]. Supporters of simple, low impact living have been frustrated by the lack of a planning or regulatory framework to allow construction of a simple recreational hut.

In 2014 the Scottish Government brought in a new policy[3] in support of huts for recreational use, with a tight definition of the low impact nature of huts[4]. The latest change is part of the rolling out of that policy and means that a burden of expense and regulation will be lifted from hut owners.[5]

Reforesting Scotland huts campaigner, Peter Caunt ,said, “It’s important to state that hut builders will still be required to apply for planning permission to build a hut. It will then be their own responsibility to ensure they comply with high standards of health and safety, and low environmental impact. Some areas, such as underground drainage, will still require a Building Warrant, whereas in other areas, such as structure, the responsibility is theirs to comply with the relevant regulations. If they don’t comply, they will be liable if something goes wrong.”

To help hutters meet these standards, Reforesting Scotland is producing a Guide to Good Practice in Hut Construction, due to be published next month. Last year, the group published a sister document about planning issues for huts, New hutting developments: Good Practice Guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites.[6]

——

[1] The new Type 23A in Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations covers detached single-storey buildings used for shelter or sleeping in connection with recreation. The type has a number of limitations which include a maximum floor area of 30 square metres, minimum distance to a boundary or other buildings, and maximum floor area of any gallery or galleries. A building warrant would be required if the limitations are not met. Although the new Type 23A does not require a building warrant, construction must meet the requirements of standards 1.1, 3.17 to 3.22 and 4.4 of schedule 5 as provided for by changes to regulation 9 of the building regulations. These cover building structure, combustion appliances and pedestrian protective barriers at changes in level.

[2] Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign has worked for 6 years to achieve these changes and has many thousands of supporters. See www.thousandhuts.org

[3] See Scottish Planning Policy 2014 www.gov.scot/Resource/0045/00453827.pdf

[4] The definition of huts in Scottish Planning Policy is: 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. Huts may be built singly or in groups.

[5] In the new legislation, Type 23A in Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations will apply to huts. In effect, it exempts huts from many building regulations except for some key areas including structure, stoves, barriers and underground drainage. While the hut builder will be required by law to comply with the regulations in these non-exempt areas, in most cases they will not be required to get a Building Warrant (exceptions include underground drainage).

[6] www.thousandhuts.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/160215-Huts-Guidance-FINAL-screen-res.pdf

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