Sometimes life is sweet. People think good thoughts. Folk are inspired to imagine and drive forward a happier, more contented society where we live good lives in good places with economic and political democracy. A little bit of that dream came alive this week.

First of all, Liz Grey (pictured above) finally realised her life-long ambition to obtain this small 10ft x 13 ft wooden hut on Hopeman beach in Morayshire. There is phenomenal demand for them and a ten year waiting list. As Liz told the Scotsman,

“It’s an absolutely magical place. Everyone around here wants to have one.

“You’d be amazed at what you can get in them even though I’ve got one of the oldest huts on the beach so it’s one of the smallest.

“They all have their own character as they’re all painted differently. The one I’ve got has a Punch and Judy on it, while next door’s is painted in rainbow colours.

“There will be dolphins swimming past all day and in the evening you light up the fires, eat, and watch the sun go down. It’s absolutely fabulous.”

Check out the picture gallery.

Last week also saw an important event in making such places more easily available to thousands of Scots who would like them.

Scottish planning policy is not most folk’s idea of fun but the quality of where we live, work and play depends on a robust land use planning system and and (equally as important) a robust and democratic system of making decisions about land allocation. One thing that the SNP Government has been good at is raising the profile of planning in Scotland. I don’t agree with all their policies but that is irrelevant for the moment. Planning now has a higher profile and that is good. This is reflected in the new National Planning Framework 3 and Scottish Planning Policy published by the Scottish Government.

But this is not a blog to discuss the weighty issues contained in these documents. I may do that later.

This is about huts.

Simple huts

Paragraph 69 of the Scottish Planning Policy concerns Development Plans in rural Scotland and the third bullet point is as follows.

69    Plans should set out a spatial strategy which:

makes provision for housing and other residential accommodation in the countryside, taking account of the development needs  of communities and the demand for leisure accommodation, including huts for temporary recreational occupation;

Hallelujah.

For the first time ever in the history of land use planning in Scotland there is a proposal that hutting be encouraged, facilitated, and expanded. A few weeks ago I was part of a delegation from Reforesting Scotland’s thousand huts campaign that met with the Scottish Government to discuss huts. Both officials and Ministers have been very supportive and what has appeared in the document this week is the culmination of a good deal of work over the past few months.

Of course the Scottish Planning Policy refers to planning policy. It is vital that if hutting is to expand and thrive that all local authorities have a policy on the topic. But there is more to do. For example, planning law does not even contain a class for “huts” and neither do the Building regulations. So, even with the most enlightened policy on hutting, it is next to impossible to actually apply for planning consent.

Which is why, earlier this year Bernard Planterose and myself were asked to prepare a paper (download copy here 3.2Mb pdf) outlining how planning law and building regulations might be reformed. This was presented to Ministers in January together with a technical annex.

Building on my previous blog on the consultation on reforming allotment legislation, this consultation on planning policy might represent the beginning of a new vision for how we use the land in around Scotland’s towns and cities. Not as a place for land speculation and grim retail and peri-urban development but as a green oasis under the democratic control of the townsfolk to grow food, walk and play and, a little further out in the woods to have some huts. Already, the Carbeth Hutters have secured their own future after decades of struggle.

But.

None of this will happen if folk don’t respond to the consultation and let the Scottish Government know what a wonderful idea this is. Full details on how to respond are here. You have until 23 July but what about doing it now and certainly before the end of May?

Please also respond to the Allotments consultation. Allotments, suburban gardens, greenspace, huts, community forests and community farms should all be part of a continuum of civilised spaces for people and nature.

If you do, then not only can many more folk like Liz Grey get hold of a hut but Scotland could be transformed by providing all ages, classes and genders of town and city dwellers with a place to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of Scotland’s wonderful countryside.

UPDATE 7 May

Further coverage of Hopeman Hits including a nice picture gallery in Daily Record 4 May

On holiday in Spean Bridge. Caught the train to Corrour and skied up Carn Dearg and down again through two feet of fresh powder snow – awesome. Scotland is laid out before us like a vast wedding cake. Forgot my camera but here’s my daughter Isla a few weeks earlier in similar conditions.Isla in hills

Earlier in the week we went to the Fort William Mountain Film Festival where the legend that is Jimmy Marshall was being given an award for his outstanding contribution to Scottish climbing. It’s fifty years since he and the late Robin Smith spent a week on Ben Nevis and pioneered 6 classic new routes at the highest of standards using classic step cutting techniques. Last week the routes were repeated by Andy Turner and Dave MacLeod. An extract from the film that is being made can be seen here and extracts from Dave MacLeod’s lovely interview with Marshall below.

MacLeod is today pioneering new routes that are among the hardest anywhere in the world as can be seen from his blog. That’s been true of Scottish climbing for decades. Just don’t expect to hear anything about it when the media talk about “winter sports”.