In England and Wales people are concerned about what sort of shed you are allowed to put up in a woodland and indeed there is much planning history on the subject, but in Scotland similar questions are described as “hutting” issues. Woodland owners need somewhere to store their tools and to shelter when it rains wherever they are. But in Scotland, there is a distinctive history of hutting – during the interwar years (1919 to 1938), Glaswegians wanted to spend time outside Glasgow at the weekends and for short holidays, so they arranged to build a series of huts at Carbeth and elsewhere. Their huts allowed them to escape from the city and to learn about the natural world. Many of the original huts are still there today and in active use. Carbeth is the largest grouping and contains 140 huts and it is reported that the owners of the huts recently bought the land they sit on for £1.5 million (in total). They have a website at: http://www.carbethhuts.com/about.html
There is pressure to extend the hutting tradition and the Scottish government have been lobbied to support such moves. Individuals such as Donald McPhillimy, Lesley Riddoch, and Andy Wightman have lent support to changing the planning law to encourage the building of huts and of hutting in general. The Scottish government have recently been discussing what to do about the pressure to build huts and a Scottish planning policy consultation during the summer (2013) asked specifically about huts.
That document received an enormous number of responses on huts (about 800 replies) which illustrates the level of support for accommodating changes to allow people to build such shelters and sustainable short-term accommodation outside the cities. Advocates of new rules on hutting have suggested a maximum size of 5 metres by 6 metres which is pretty large in hut terms but it would set a limit on hut-building so that these do not become permanent long-term housing developments. Some Scottish hutting campaigners have argued that huts should fall under a new category of development in planning terms.
One observer suggested that huts would be a vast improvement on caravans in so many ways and pointed to the way the Norwegians and Swedes organise short term accommodation in the countryside. He said, “we have caravans whilst Scandinavians have huts”. This is certainly a problem for woodland owners and because the law on huts is so unclear many woodlands owners have discretely built their own shelters but without any planning permission. With more and more people owning a small piece of Scotland with a view to managing it and enjoying it there is certainly a need for more clarity on what huts you can and can’t build.
Donald McPhillimy, who advises woodland owners on forestry management drew our attention to the Scottish hutting debate and we are grateful to him for the use of the pictures here of some of the huts at Carbeth near Glasgow. Donald is an advocate for the organisation “Reforesting Scotland” and is on the editorial board of the excellent publication of the same name. You can see their website at reforestingscotland.org or the campaign for 1,000 huts at http://www.thousandhuts.org