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ACCESS TO LAND
For many prospective hutters the biggest barrier to having a hut is lack of access to land. Scotland has an extremely unbalanced distribution of land ownership with only 1200 landowners (that’s 0.02% of the population) owning two thirds of Scotland’s privately owned land.
Since devolution in Scotland there has been a gradual process of land reform, attempting to change this imbalance through ending the feudal system, introducing new rights and support for communities and greater transparency about land ownership. However, this process is ongoing, and it will take careful policy-making and enduring political will to make real change happen in a fair and progressive way.
SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THE HUTTING MOVEMENT
Most landless hutters will need to use a bit of creativity and lateral thinking to find ways to access land. They may be considering purchasing or leasing land either as an individual or collectively. The traditional hutting model tends to work in the following way: A constituted Hutters’ Group contains individual hutters who each pay ground rent for the site their hut sits on. Collective purchasing or leasing of land is an excellent way to make hutting more affordable and may be done as a community, or group of friends, or a new hutters’ group assembled to search for land. For those considering leasing land for hutting, the important thing is to have a comprehensive formal agreement with the landlord protecting both the hutters’ and the landlords’ rights. You can find lots of help in drawing up a fair lease in our Voluntary Code of Good Conduct Between Hutters and Landlords.
It is very important to remember that before you agree to purchase or lease land for hutting you would be wise to get advice from the relevant local authority planning department about whether huts are likely to get planning permission on that site. It may be that you can make a deal with the landowner that is conditional on planning permission being given. See our planning guidance for useful information on all aspects of planning for huts.
APPROACHING LANDOWNERS WITH
Don’t be afraid to approach a landowner with a proposal for hutting on their land – many may be interested in leasing land, and some may even consider selling. Farm and estate incomes have taken a battering in recent years, and if you can make a proposal to a landowner which shows that hutting could bring them an income stream on land which otherwise has little prospect of income-generation, it may be of interest to them. We have also been approached by landowners who genuinely would like to bring people back onto their land and create some wider community benefit. While for some, finance (and hassle caused), will be the main consideration, others will see it as a simply a good thing to do.
Hutters can work with either of those approaches, as long as the rights and responsibilities of both parties are protected. If you are approaching any type of landowner to ask about leasing land, or even purchasing it, they will want to get a sense of exactly what you plan to do, and that you will be straightforward to work with – basically that the hutters will be considerate neighbours/tenants. You can use our Voluntary Code of Good Conduct Between Hutters and Landlords as a basis for discussing the many relevant issues before drawing up a lease.
HUTS ON COMMUNITY LAND, NGO LAND AND PUBLICLY-OWNED LAND
For many community groups, public bodies or landowning NGOs, the community engagement aspect of hutting will be very much in line with their values and they may be quite receptive to the idea. Currently the development of the Carnock Hut Site on publicly-owned forested land will hopefully create a precedent and a pilot, from where landowners and hutters alike can see the joys and challenges of hut site development and benefit from the experience of the Carnock Hutters’ Group.
Useful contacts for community land, public land and NGO-owned land include: The Community Woodlands Association; Forests and Land Scotland; Scottish Natural Heritage; The National Trust for Scotland, The John Muir Trust, The Royal Society for Protection of Birds, The Development Associations Trust for Scotland, Community Land Scotland, Local Authorities, Common Good land.
FINDING LAND FOR SALE THROUGH CONVENTIONAL CHANNELS
Some interesting sources may be found here and elsewhere:
– this company is one of the few that sells smaller parcels of land – usually a few acres at a time.
John Clegg - www.johnclegg.co.uk
– Currently offering a range of woodlands with prices ranging from £45,000 to £2,500.000. Most are in the region of several hundred thousand pounds but sometimes these are split into smaller lots.
– a property auction which has unusual parcels of land for sale. Beware of pitfalls and get legal advice before proceeding, as there are often challenges such as limited access, remnant industrial installations etc. But there will also be opportunities.