The Lego House by Clive Elsdon Building Design

As a child I loved my LEGO!

There was hardly anywhere my LEGO didn’t go with me, including many caravan holidays! One of those holidays ended in disaster just outside Gretna Green as my dad towed the caravan back from Scotland! A massive gust of wind overturned our beloved Sprite Alpine, suspending our three speed Ford Consul from its draw-bar, with my Grandma and a young me on the back seat! The rear wheels of the car weren’t even touching the ground! The vision of the caravan on its side through the curved back window of the car is imprinted on my memory, as is the sight of a big crane driver and other people running out between the traffic to rescue my LEGO bricks off the tarmac! They had been inside a 1950’s bread bin in the caravan, and had somehow spilled out onto the road.

New Home Promise

In 1996 my mother used to relate a tail to anyone who visited her in her new home. She used to tell them that when I was about eight, living in a bungalow in Middlesbrough (having just relocated there from Durham) I was building a LEGO house and that I  turned to her and said that one day I’d build her a real house to retire to. At that time I had no inkling what career path I would take, in fact Train Driver or Cowboy was probably more on my mind than anything to do with Architecture!

In 1996 though, my mother knew that to some extent at least I had kept that childhood promise! I hadn’t actually built the house of course! We had a builder to do that, but I had designed it, applied for the planning permission and achieved building regulation approval. I had produced the drawings that the builder had had in his site cabin, the ones with the dimensions, notes and specifications which meant he knew what we wanted him to build. My mother had seen a sketch on a piece of paper become a detailed drawing and then take shape on site! She had seen a piece of empty land in Weardale, County Durham be transformed into her new home.

Childhood Revisited

Today, in the loft of that home is a 1950’s Bread Bin. It looks played with, it even has a little surface rust on it, but inside it is still full to the brim of the most wonderful educational toy in the whole world, LEGO! The toy that lead me to a career in architecture! Rummaging through the loft the other day, I came across the tin, brought it down and decided to build something with it. I also decided to make an animation, and yes, that animation which you can watch here features bricks rescued from the middle of a road after that caravan accident.

Perhaps another small irony is that the caravan was bought off the insurers by a builder and became a site cabin!

The Lego House Video

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did making it, and as much as I enjoyed the childhood memories building something from LEGO brought back!

Do you know what an HMO is? Here is a brief description of Houses in Multiple Occupation in relation to their Planning Use Classifications.

An HMO is a “House in multiple occupation”.   It means that three or more UNRELATED tenants live there, and share one or more of the basic amenities, such as a kitchen, a bathroom, or living space.  A typical example would be a student flat, but the classification is not limited to that.

Technically, in planning an HMO falls into a different use class than an ordinary flat or dwelling, but which use class it falls into depends on its size, and on who manages it.

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Small Properties – 3 to 6 Tenant

Since new government legislation was introduced in 2012 a house with 3 – 6 unrelated occupants is Use Class C4.  Interestingly, this applies to flats owned or managed by private providers as those managed by an Educational Establishment are excluded from this use class.  Where this gets interesting, and sometimes confusing, is that legislation allows Local Authorities to require a planning application for a change of use from a dwelling house to a house in multiple occupation so that they can prevent the problems sometimes caused to a community by high concentrations of rented houses in one area, a situation sometimes called “studentification” .

At the moment, a change of use from Dwelling House to a HMO may be a permitted development right (it is currently in Durham City for example), but this is not always the case.  If an Article 4 Direction has been put in place, restricting permitted development rights then to change a dwelling into a HMO you will need planning permission if you wish to change an existing dwelling to a House in Multiple Occupation.

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Large Properties – More than 6 Tenants

Another confusion to this issue is houses or flats that accommodate more than 6 unrelated tenants.  These do not come under the Use Class C4 at all as they are unclassified by the use class order and therefore come under “sui generis”, which translates to “Of their own kind”.  To give you an example of how wide a range of developments that this description covers, it would include the use of a building as a Vetinary Surgery.  In order to convert an existing dwelling into this category, it would be advisable to contact the Local Authority to clarify their requirements.

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Developments by Educational Establishments

Whilst the two sections above describe the use classes for HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) which are owned / managed by private landlords, if it is the Educational Establishment themselves carrying out the development, the planning application will generally be made in respect of Use Class C2, “Residential Institutions”.


This article relates to Planning Use Classes.  There are also Building Regulation implications of converting a building into an HMO, and there may also be statutory controls and licensing requirements as well.