Ten ways to keep hutting affordable for all: it’s possible but it needs us all to make the effort…

Credit Fran HigsonThanks to the changes in planning policy the door is open for new hut sites, and we very much hope that this Autumn will bring an announcement from the Scottish Government about exemptions for huts from most building regulations.

These two important steps open up new possibilities for hutting in Scotland. The Thousand Huts campaign was set up to remove barriers to hutting and help support the development of a new hutting movement in Scotland. The campaign’s  vision for this movement is that it would be accessible to people of all income brackets – that the benefits of hutting would improve the lives of everyone who needed it. But how can this vision become reality?

Are affordable huts a pipe dream?

Currently the demand for huts far, far exceeds the supply. We have a list of over 800 people who would like a hut – and this is surely the tip of the iceberg. Market forces and economic pressures will affect the cost of land rental for huts. Building huts, and preparing hut sites with access, water and any other services all cost money. Sometimes it can be done cheaply, but often it costs a LOT of money, as we’re discovering with our own hut site pilot.

Fortunately there are several ways to keep hutting more affordable – albeit with a lot of effort and commitment by all involved.

Affordable hutting is something that no single organisation can deliver: it’s down to the efforts of all hutters, landlords and hut site management groups to help make it happen. It must be fundamental to the ethos of the new hutting movement.

Here are some suggestions of ways to make it happen. We’d love to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions for making this list better.

Ten ways to help keep hutting affordable for all

1. Affordable organising: Follow the traditional hut site model. What we’re calling the traditional hut site model is actually a modernised version. The traditional model is that hutters pay ground rent to a landlord (which could be an individual or a public body or community organisation). We’re 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 have more access to funding to help with these costs.

2. Affordable rents: Practice fair hutting. We are in the process of finalising a Voluntary Code of Conduct between Hutters and Landlords. It sets out points to form the basis of a fair tenancy agreement between hutter and landlord. We also have a team of volunteers working on analysing our Hutters Surveys. This contains data on existing ground rents and also what prospective hutters say they could afford. The results of these surveys will be used to help prospective site owners or managers to set fair rates for ground rent.

3. Buying land: Individuals getting together to buy land. 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 be more possible is if a large group of people get together to share the cost of land purchase and site development. It’s 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 often 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 are exploring the idea of a database of these opportunities. They all have different motivations – and though they often 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’s 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 per the Voluntary Code of Conduct between Hutters and Landlords (soon to be published), renting ground from a supportive landlord could be an achievable way of accessing land.

6. Affordable building: Two out of Three It’s 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.

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.

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. Keep working towards affordable, inclusive hutting indefinitely!

 

 

 

 

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Hutters’ Rally: Hear all about it on BBC Scotland Out of Doors

BBC Scotland Out of Doors Team with Californian small build guru Lloyd Kahn. Photo: BBC Scotland Out of Doors

BBC Scotland Out of Doors Team with Californian small build guru Lloyd Kahn. Photo: BBC Scotland Out of Doors

This week’s Hutters’ Rally was a fantastic coming together of hut enthusiasts for site-visits, workshops and action planning. It co-incided with the visit to Scotland of Californian small build guru, Lloyd Kahn.

The BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors team are all keen hut enthusiasts and they’ve made  a programme about all aspects of hutting; the joys, the dreams and the practicalities – but also the challenges – affordability and sustainability.

Tune in now or listen again here.

 

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Hutters’ Rally – 5 days to go!

hgtv tree house book newFinal preparations are under way for the 2016 Hutters’ Rally, taking place in Fife on Tuesday 10th May from 10am-5.30pm. You can book your tickets here.

In the morning you can go to one of our hut-related site visits or see the Shelters Exhibition at Kirkcaldy Galleries, charting many decades of adventures in improvised architecture, through the history of Shelter Publications.

The afternoon will see a fantastic programme of events. A series of experts will run quickfire presentations to kickstart the event with some inspiration and ideas, then the process will open out into multiple sessions where you will have a chance to shape the outcome of the event. See this video about the Rural Parliament for info on how this ‘Open Space’ process works (it is explained about 5 mins into the video).

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Hutters’ Rally 2016 comes to Fife – book your ticket now!

Join us for a great day of hut inspiration, dreaming and planning.

Join us for a great day of hut inspiration, dreaming and planning.

Booking is now open for the 2016 Hutters’ Rally. This year we’re coming to Fife –  where many exciting new hutting plans are emerging, including our pilot hut site on Forestry Commission land.

The Rally takes place on Tuesday 10th May 2016, from 10am-5.30pm. There will be site visits in the morning for those who would like to see some potential hut sites and existing huts, then in the afternoon we’ll be at St Bryce’s Church in Kirkcaldy for a range of workshops, presentations and activities. The Hutters’ Rally will be chaired by broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, with a range of other Continue reading

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Woods and wellbeing: Latest issue of our journal our now!

RS53-coverThe latest issue of the Reforesting Scotland journal is out now, and this issue focuses on Woods and Wellbeing. It includes an article on Huts and Wellbeing by David Dean, owner of the Woodsman’s Hut at Nethybridge. You can purchase it via the Reforesting Scotland website or you can become a member of Reforesting Scotland and you will receive the journal twice a year.

If you’re looking for a lively magazine covering a wide range of issues around sustainability and forest culture, theReforesting Scotland journal is for you. Published twice a year, in full colour, for 20 years it has ranked among the UK’s best ecological publications.

It’s packed with great writing on everything from permaculture to peak oil, huts to native tree nurseries, as well as some vigorous debate on the politics of developing a sustainable forest-based culture. You’ll also find it is beautifully presented and published to the highest environmental standards of recycled paper and vegetable-based inks. Take a look at the back issues for a taste of the fantastic resources that are to be found in its pages.

Why not join Reforesting Scotland and receive this lovely journal twice a year? As well as becoming part of a lively network of forest-minded people, you’ll be supporting Reforesting Scotland’s work, and will have the opportunity to come to our great Annual Gathering – always full to the brim with interesting study visits, workshops and of course our famous ceilidh, which once nearly brought the roof down at Kindrogan Field Centre!

Alternatively, here’s how to buy the Journal without joining.

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Tonight: Huts planning guide celebrated

Angus Macdonald MSP, planning consultant Richard Heggie, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead MSP and Karen Grant of Reforesting Scotland's Thousand Huts campaign.

Angus Macdonald MSP, planning consultant Richard Heggie, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead MSP and Karen Grant of Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts.

Tonight we’re celebrating the launch of the new huts planning guide at the Scottish Parliament with 80 planning professionals, architects and hut builders at an event hosted by Angus Macdonald MSP. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead has welcomed the guide, saying:

“Huts and hutting are a great way for people to enjoy Scotland’s outstanding natural environment, with all the benefits to health and wellbeing this can bring. I very much welcome the publication of this guidance, which I hope will provide an important opportunity for many more people in Scotland to enjoy the recreational benefits associated with huts and hutting.”

The Thousand Huts campaign team and Planning Advisory Group have spent 2 years working with planning and building professionals to produce this guide to help planners, architects and hut builders alike achieve good practice in new hut developments. This work was supported by The Planning Exchange Foundation, and has been reviewed by planning, legal and tenancy professionals in the public and private sectors and at a local and national level. It is designed to help support the rolling out of Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) on huts.

Download your copy of New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites’ here.

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It’s here! New guidance on huts and hut sites

Cabinet Sec. for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead MSP welcomes the guidance. Pictured here with Richard Heggie and Karen Grant of Reforesting Scotland's Thousand Huts campaign.

Cabinet Sec. for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead MSP welcomes the guidance. Pictured here with Richard Heggie and Karen Grant of Reforesting Scotland.

Today we are delighted to launch New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites’.

Whether, you’re a planner, an architect or a prospective hut builder, this guidance will be a useful source on: the Scottish Planning Policy definition of a hut; siting and location; services; the land surrounding huts. The document has a strong focus on preserving the low-impact, environmentally sustainable ethos of traditional hutting and also looks at some non-planning considerations such as ownership and hut site tenure.

Reforesting Scotland's new good practice guidance on hut developments

Reforesting Scotland’s new good practice guidance on hut developments

The Thousand Huts campaign team and Planning Advisory Group have spent 2 years working with planning and building professionals to produce this guide to help planners, architects and hut builders alike achieve good practice in new hut developments. This work was supported by The Planning Exchange Foundation, and has been reviewed by planning, legal and tenancy professionals in the public and private sectors and at a local and national level. It is designed to help support the rolling out of Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) on huts.

You can download your copy here.

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Donate now to support new hutting in Scotland

Ninians-hut4The Thousand Huts campaign has been running for 4 years now. Over that time our small campaign team has laid down much of the groundwork needed for a revival of hutting in Scotland. The next couple of years are a pivotal time in which we expect to develop many new opportunities for aspiring hutters. To make this a reality we are aiming to raise £100,000. We already have £35,000 of this in place and ask you to consider donating now to help us reach our target.
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Huts and Building Regulations: Have your say!

Alasdairs-hut-1

Have you responded to the Scottish Government consultation proposing a possible exemption of huts from building regulations? If not, hurry – you only have until 12 February to do so. This is our chance to make having a hut easier and more affordable.

Why do the regulations need to be changed?

Currently, if you want get permission to build a simple hut with sleeping accommodation you have to comply with the same building regulations as you would if you were building a house. The Government’s proposed amendment would make hut building simpler and more affordable by exempting huts from most building regulations. Continue reading

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New planning guidance for huts in 2016

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

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

Many of you will know that we’ve been working on a new publication, New hutting developments: Guidance on planning, developing and managing huts which sets out the values and characteristics of good practice in hut developments to maximise their benefit for health and wellbeing, our relationship with the natural environment and our cultural life. This document has been subject to a rigorous review by planning professionals and is now nearing completion. It will be launched in mid February.

Now Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign has been given a grant by the Planning Exchange Foundation to roll this out into a series of seminars for planning professionals, hut builders and other interested parties. If you would like to be kept up to date with news of the launch of this guidance and the events following it, please send an email to huts(at)reforestingscotland.org

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