April 6, 2016
A place in the country
In the last edition, we flagged up the potential for communities to acquire small parcels of land on which they might construct huts in the Nordic tradition for use as recreational retreats. Distance from the site need not necessarily be a barrier, indeed urban communities looking to develop a community hut are going to have to look further afield anyway. Reforesting Scotland are currently negotiating with the Forestry Commission for some land in Central Scotland with space for up to 12 huts. Communities with an interest in making this happen should get in touch.
When you stand on the proposed pilot study hutting site in Carnock Wood, in west Fife, looking southwest you have a scraggy birch wood behind you and a sea of bracken in front of you. In the distance lies the Firth of Forth and often there are spectacular sunsets. Behind the birch wood is a larger pine plantation of around 40 hectares, a fair size to explore. It is a lovely woodland and will be a fantastic place to have a hut.
Reforesting Scotland’s Thousand Huts campaign has taken a few giant steps towards achieving that over the past 12 months and it now looks like Spring 2016 is going to be the time we spread the word that 12 hut sites are becoming available. There will be a period of allocation and scrutinising of leases, then hut building can commence. We have come a long way in the last year, since selecting the site from Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) short list.
First, we made contact with neighbours and the local communities. There would be nothing worse than Reforesting Scotland, an organisation which has always promoted community initiatives, getting off on the wrong foot and pissing off the neighbours. The meeting with the Community Council and the Drop In in Saline Community Centre went really well and grew our support locally.
In the lead up to the Hutters’ Rally in Glasgow in July 2014, the BBC got interested and recorded items for both TV and radio. There was good press coverage around this time too. We also met planners from Fife Council and contributed to the new Development Plan. Since then, we have mapped the likely site and produced design guidance for planners, FCS and hutters. This draws on the survey we did of existing hutters who kindly shared details of their energy and water sources, and toilet arrangements.
Most people rely on log stoves and candles for warmth and lighting, with cooking done over bottled gas, although an unexpected number have some form of renewable energy. Toilets are usually of the compost variety. A model constitution has been drawn up for the group of hutters. We see this as a co-operative, using club rules, with audited accounts and officebearers, dissolution clauses, and so on. We would like to keep it simple.
We have also thought about how to offer the 12 places to would-be hutters. two sites would be reserved for local people plus a possible community hut/school classroom. The opportunity for the remaining ten sites will be promoted widely, followed by a ballot and interviews. All hutters will have to belong to the co-op and be bound by the majority. The next step is to draw up a lease between the co-op and FCS which covers everything which could possibly go wrong and is legally watertight.
Then there is the planning application, with the way hopefully smoothed by the discussions we are having with local planners and those in the Scottish Government, which continues to be supportive. It is all on track and I look forward to hearing the sounds of children playing and sausages sizzling in that beautiful little birch wood in west Fife.
Thousand Huts campaign