Huts, the planning system and building regulations

Our good practice guidance on planning hut developments

Our good practice guidance on planning hut developments

There has been some confusion in the press recently about the regulatory requirements for planning permission and hut construction. Here is a summary of the current situation for those wishing to build new huts:

  • There IS a requirement to 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.
  • The Scottish Government has said that they plan to EXEMPT huts from building regulations by creating a new building type for huts. Huts will still need planning permission but the 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.
  • However, this exemption is dependent on hut builders following health and safety guidance contained in a new publication currently under production (look out for more information on this in coming months).

There is often confusion about the difference between planning and building control. 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 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.

As a result of the shift in planning policy, 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.

The change in building regulations in relation to huts

Following overwhelming support in the recent consultation, the Scottish Government has published its plans to create a new building type in the building regulations to exempt huts and bothies up to 30m2.  In a new report following their consultation earlier in 2016, the Government noted that consultation responses ranged from 75% to 98% in favour of the proposals to exempt huts.

The Government has stated that it intends to proceed with this legislative change early in 2017, and has made some improvements to the proposals in response to the consultees’ comments: they have taken on board that there is overwhelming support for the inclusion of sleeping platforms in huts, and have expressed a commitment to addressing this.

The Scottish Government report states: “The Scottish Government (SG) in developing the policy considered the main driver of the Reforesting Scotland campaign was to allow huts i.e. buildings with sleeping accommodation to be built in more rural locations, without the need for formal permission (a building warrant) from the local authority or indeed to comply with the building regulations. This was in order to reduce building costs, and make huts and bothies more affordable to more people. The new exempt type proposed maintains key legislative health and safety safeguards for these types of building. This is indeed a move away from other exempt building types in Schedule 1 as sleeping accommodation has been considered in the exempt building type. The SGs main focus is considering public safety for people using and sleeping in huts and bothies.”

A crucial element of maintaining key health and safety safeguards will be the production of a Good Practice Guide by Reforesting Scotland. In order to get the exemptions, hut builders will be responsible for ensuring that their building meets the good practice standards set out in our guide. This will ensure that the health and safety of hut builders and occupants are not compromised by the freedoms afforded by the new exemptions.

The Scottish Government response to the consultation on the introduction of regulatory concessions for huts and bothies in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 has been published on the Scottish Government website at


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