Here is a summary of the current situation 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. 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
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 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. 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 in support of huts for recreational use, with a tight definition of the low impact nature of huts. 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.
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.
 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.
 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
 See Scottish Planning Policy 2014 www.gov.scot/Resource/0045/00453827.pdf
 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.
 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).
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.