Huts planning guide celebrated

Last night the Thousand Huts campaign launched its ‘New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites’ at the Scottish Parliament.

It is a comprehensive document with many seductive photos of huts, both old and new, to help planners and hut builders respond to the emerging opportunities for hut building in Scotland. It was produced by Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign, established in 2011 by Ninian Stuart, director of Falkland Centre for Stewardship. This is the first stepping stone for Thousand Huts campaign in its aim to get more Scots out in the forests and onto the mountains. Their next goal is to get a relaxation in the building standards for huts, which the campaign hopes to achieve by the end of the year.

I have already written about the campaign for The Magazine of the Architectural Heritage of Scotland. The article, Hutting in Scotland, was published in 2013.

The document’s launch is an exciting first step in getting Scots to reconnect with their landscape.

As I said at last night’s event the big challenge now is to make the cultural shift to get people away from their caravans or cheap package holidays and into the Scottish countryside. Being half Norwegian and having spent many a holiday in hytte (the Norwegian equivalent) I suggested that we need to think about encouraging organisations to build huts for the use of families and individuals.

Many people will not want to commit the time and money required to own their own hut but if they have access to a workplace provided one or a community-owned one that they could rent at a reasonable rate might well be tempted to go, whether for the weekend or longer. As a child I stayed in hytte with my father owned by the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Now when I go holidaying with cousins we often stay in huts owned by the energy company Statoil.

There is plenty of evidence around to suggest the benefits to health and wellbeing of time spent in the countryside. Norwegians recognise this and many organisations both state and private own hytte for use by their employees.

There is also the possibility of community-owned huts riding on the back of the many community buyouts around Scotland. It would be great if NGOs such as the National Trust for Scotland or the RSPB could also free up some of their land for hut building. Reforesting Scotland and Scottish Waterways Trust have already started to look at building huts on their land.

With the potential further changes to land reform after the next Scottish election this is the time to think seriously about growing the community of hutters in Scotland.

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