In our January Spotlights we promised to report on our first hutting experience in Norway, and we have to say it was incredible, with some amazing aurora displays (as our banner photo shows!).
We also referred to the planning application for a new hutting site at Dalbeath Woodland in Fife, and we spent some of our time in Norway reflecting on what the thousand huts campaign could learn from the long tradition of cabin living there.
In Norway, over half of the population have ready access to a cabin in which they spend an average of 60 days a year. The association of cabins with nature is an important part of Norwegian culture and identity, with cabins historically being a symbol of the simple life – these traditionally being small, with an outside toilet, no electricity, no running water and no road to them.
Reforesting Scotland’s thousand huts campaign aims to promote a similar concept; the building and enjoyment of simple structures (usually wooden) for living, working and recreation in the countryside. On the back of the campaign, Scottish Planning Policy includes a definition of a hut as being:
“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.”
In Norway, however, cabin enthusiasts have become more demanding, our own cabin being testament to that: admittedly we did have to drag our luggage up to it on a sledge, run out to an external compost toilet, and breaking the ice on the well to access our water was an interesting experience, but we also had electricity with lighting, electric heaters and a very functional cooker. And, although our cabin itself was small, it was located within a loose grouping of 7 or 8 cabins, all of which were significantly bigger than the 30m2 floor area allowed for huts (newly constructed cabins being on average 103m2).
The demand for more, larger and more luxurious cabins has had three key consequences:
- the creation of a form of cabin suburbia, undermining what cabin life was originally about - getting away with friends and family and being close to nature;
- increasing pressure on the natural environment, such as migratory routes, winter habitats, calving grounds for wild reindeer and bear habitats; and
- cabin prices have rocketed, with the cost of building a new cabin now being similar to buying an existing cabin, which of course exacerbates the first two issues.
However, more positively, recognition of these impacts has triggered a new demand for “more gentle ways of doing this” (Reiulf Ramstad), a return to simplicity, cabins being designed to be more in sympathy with their surroundings, using fewer materials, and building fewer, smaller units (but in exciting architectural forms) close to the forest, wilderness and nature.
The thousand huts campaign may be laudable in its aspirations, but we must be careful what we wish for and ensure that hutting life is promoted in a way that is truly sustainable in economic, environmental and social terms.
Hutting related or otherwise, if you would like to find out about how aurora planning can assist you in any aspect of the planning process, please visit www.auroraplanning.co.uk or email email@example.com. And, to receive future blogs and updates by email, please click here.
Thanks for reading!