There is a lot to consider when looking for a shepherd’s hut for sale, or to commission a bespoke project. Hopefully we’ve answered some of your questions here. But if not do get in touch, we are very happy to help.
Do shepherd’s huts need planning permission?
As the shepherd’s hut structure is on wheels and is portable the answer is often no. But any change of use of the land that the huts stand upon may need planning permission. Planning permission guidelines can be found online on your local district council website - local plan policy is a good starting point if you do need planning permission, as if your project falls within the local plan that is a positive thing. In the curtilage of the house, and if the enjoyment of the hut is incidental to the enjoyment of the main dwelling then you don’t need planning permission. So if the hut is near the house, and you go out to the hut to paint, play the guitar, have friends to stay then that is all incidental to the enjoyment of the main dwelling. The test of 'has a material change of use occurred' is a good question to ask - if a hut is placed on an agricultural field, and it becomes a holiday let then planning permission would probably be needed. There is a permanency question too; can the hut be moved without large machinery? Yes it can, so it isn't seen as a permanent structure. But if your hut has plumbing connected to the drain or septic tank (perhaps for a glamping venture) then it could be seen as being less portable - and if services such as septic tanks are needed then the Environment Agency will have guidelines for that, protecting watercourses. Whilst we have delivered many shepherds huts to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including the Lake District, the Peak District, Dartmoor, the New Forest and the Black Mountains in Wales it is worth running the idea past them first. The simple answer is the shepherd's hut itself doesn't need planning permission, it's what you are doing with it that may do.
Is a shepherd's hut warm inside?
Yes, the shepherd’s hut is built using modern timber frame house techniques, and is used all year round. The 75mm / 3" timber frame is completely sheathed in Wisa structural ply wrapped in breather membrane, insulated with British Thermafleece sheepswool, and lined with vapour barrier which contributes to a comfortable, warm and dry environment. The internal lining is sustainably sourced, knot-free poplar wood, which takes paint extremely well.
Can a shepherd's hut be moved?
Yes, it has a draw bar on the steering end, and a hut can be pulled around using a small tractor or Land Rover / 4x4, for example to a summer and winter resting spot. Whilst many of our shepherd's hut may only occasionally move from their spot once delivered, at least you know they can be. This is great advantage over an extension or conversion of an existing outbuilding, as you can take it with you if you move. A shepherd's hut genuinely offers an alternative to an expensive extension with the associated building works.
Why are Plankbridge huts better than others?
Years of hutmaking (we made our first hut nearly two decades ago) and having delivered many huts around the UK, Europe and even the USA amounts to unrivalled experience, which we channel into every hut build. Any competitor can only be playing second fiddle as they are, by default, followers and not at the forefront of the new wave of shepherd's huts. Commentators have said that this revival was triggered by our appearance on BBC TV Countryfile in 2011 with John Craven, and then our Artisan shepherd's hut garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2012 which featured in many design led magazines in the UK and around the World. We remain strongly influenced by the best Victorian hutmakers, whose craftsmanship and design informs the contemporary huts we make today. Our furniture makers have worked in some of the famous Dorset workshops, and we treat each hut as if it were in effect a large piece of furniture, a cabinet on wheels! Richard trained at international furniture designer John Makepeace's Hooke Park College back in the early '90's; in the Parnham era. We are also very keen on the Arts and Crafts philosophy of John Ruskin and William Morris, and have spent many years building a happy team and nurturing apprentice hutmakers. We are the only shepherd's hut makers to be endorsed by the RHS - the Royal Horticultural Society (the RHS) in recognition of our quality and experience.
Is it safe to have a wood burner in a shepherd's hut?
We fit the kitemarked stoves (the Devon made Arada Puffin) to a British standard for portable accommodation units. There is a fixed air vent, and CO alarm, with 12mm heat shield lining (over a 12mm air gap behind) around the stove which sits on a metal (or tiled) hearth. The flue pipe is twin wall all the way from stove to chimney cap, helping the relatively short length of flue draw well.
What is the most unusual shepherds hut you have ever done?
Some more eccentric interiors include a terrapin house, lighting made from hazel trees with bird boxes hanging as light shades, and an end wall finished in metal wallpaper imported from the US! We have fitted cast iron and copper bath tubs, and lined a shower in corrugated iron.
Did you study at John Makepeace’s college?
Yes, Richard went to what was Hooke Park College during the Parnham era, which is now an architectural college. He ended up with an MSc in Forest Product Technology (design and manufacture), linked to Bournemouth University. Hooke was a great experience, if a little unusual. Richard saw it as a monastery of woodwork, spending two and a bit years in the woods on top of a hill in West Dorset. Students benefited from a wide range of visiting lecturers who were the best in their fields of business studies, design and making. It was mainly about the freedom to experiment in all aspects of timber design, from building to furniture to sculpture. Interestingly there are three regular exhibitors at the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show who, including Plankbridge, are Hooke Park alumni.
Which is best for a shepherd's hut, tin or wood?
Corrugated iron is a wonderful traditional cladding material which has an industrial feel and is visually appealing. Corrugated iron was invented around 1850, and coincided with the heyday of the Victorian shepherd's hut. We see them as intrinsically linked. It is lower maintenance than wood and extremely durable. However the feather edge weatherboard is an alternative. In oak it can be left natural to weather to a silver grey, or painted. Traditionally this was black, as they used to finish the cladding on buildings in a black tar which looks great, particularly in some parts of the country like Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent where buildings and shepherd's huts were often pitched or 'blackjacked'.
What is feather edge weatherboard?
Shepherd's huts look great in corrugated iron cladding, but we do clad huts in timber too. The horizontal sawn boards that you may be familiar with, most often seen on older buildings in places such as Suffolk, Kent and Sussex is usually a sawn feather edge board, the boards overlapping each other. Traditionally the boards were pitched black (a bi-product from shipwrights apparently), or naturally durable oak cladding can be left to weather to silver.
What do I do about drainage for my shepherd's hut?
A hut fitted with flushing toilet and a shower will need connecting either to the main drain or a septic tank system. This is often a basic job for a ground works company who would advise on the best options for you. Where connections to a drain aren’t possible we also fit self contained composting units, and cassette type toilets.
How do I connect my shepherd's hut to an electric supply?
240v electrics have a 3 pin duraplug under the hut, situated in a convenient place to suit you. If electric showers etc are involved then a 32 or 64amp supply will be required. An armoured cable can be trenched under ground or clipped to a fence or wall to feed an electric supply to the hut. Your electrician will be able to advise on how best to achieve this.
What if I can’t get mains electrics to the hut?
We can fit 12v solar kit to the hut – a small semi flexible panel sits on the roof and feeds a 110 a/hr leisure battery. This runs low voltage LED lights and small charger sockets. A hut can be completely off grid and independent, an LPG boiler providing hot water – we are pleased to help advise further on this.
Where are Plankbridge Shepherd's hut wheels made?
Our cast iron wheels are made in a foundry in Somerset from molten pig iron which is poured into our own mould patterns. Cast iron is very long lasting – the wheels could be around for hundreds of years!
Do you do kits?
We have been asked for many years if we do kits - we don’t offer kits for our huts. Whilst it could be possible to bundle the materials onto a chassis and leave it someone else we would much rather build complete shepherd's huts and cabins for our customers. For us a hut is similar to a piece of furniture, albeit a large one, and we wouldn't want to deliver a kitchen or a dining table in the form of planks of wood with a bag of bolts and screws.
What are the floors?
European oak, finishing at 21mm thick and oil finished. All our timber is FSC or PEFC certified timber.
Do you restore old huts or make upgrades to huts bought elsewhere?
In the early days we restored many Victorian shepherd’s huts, and it has been fascinating to strip back the years and see how the craftsmen of old built the huts. Some have a surprising level of detailing, particularly those of Reeves of Bratton, Farris of Coombe Bisset and Lott and Walne of Dorchester. The heritage of these old huts lives on in the shepherd’s huts we build today. We even built much of the hut, a ‘hero prop' for the recent Far from the Madding Crowd feature film; the set designers worked on the walls and interior. We don’t make alterations or improvements to modern poor quality huts purchased elsewhere, although we do get asked to quite often!
Do you have ready made shepherd's huts?
We aim to always have one or two shepherd's huts available for immediate delivery. These will be made to a popular specifications which we know will cover a wide range of uses. Do get in touch to ask about our latest model.
Shepherd's hut or shepherd hut?
Shepherd's hut (with the apostrophe s) is the correct spelling. Shepherd hut just doesn't look right and has caused much debate - army lorry, baker's van, woodworker's apron, builder's truck, shepherd's hut etc. I recently visited a nice cafe in the wonderful book town Hay on Wye. The cafe is called the Shepherd's Parlour. It would would look and be completely wrong if it said Shepherd Parlour.
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