Planning and building regulations for huts

Our guidance on planning new 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.
  • As of 1st July 2017, there will be a new building type under which huts will be regulated. This is not an exemption from 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.
  • 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. 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.

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.

The change in building regulations in relation to huts

Following overwhelming support in the recent consultation, the Scottish Government has brought in new legislation defining a new building type for huts and bothies up to 30m2. This legislation comes into force on 1st July 2017. It is intended to minimise the need for building warrants for hut construction.

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