Visa application collection successfully enforced

The use of premises in the West Midlands as a centre for processing visa applications has been held by an inspector to have triggered a material change of use which undermined road safety and the character of the area.

In defending himself against the notice the appellant stated that the company provided travel visa processing services on behalf of the High Commission of India. He argued that the former use fell within Class B1(a) comprising an office and in accordance with the Use Classes Order 1987 its use within Class A2, as alleged by the council, was permitted development.

The premises provided seating for 120 people and large numbers of people called at the premises typically twice a day to deliver and collect documents relating to visa applications. It contained a reception desk and another service desk, the latter staffed by up to nine people dealing with visa applications. Although it involved work of an administrative nature it was not a normal office, the inspector held.Nor did it fall within Class A2 relating to financial and professional services. There was no good reason why a visa submission and collection facility should be located within a shopping area especially since some visitors attended by appointment and it was not aimed at attracting passing customers like an estate agent's or shop. In the inspector's view it involved a sui generis use which meant that permission was required and this had not been granted.

In addressing the planning merits the site was located along a predominantly residential street and many residents had complained about cars blocking the road, parking on pavements and across driveways. Some visitors had urinated in the street and on private land whilst others had dropped litter after consuming takeaway food. These were harmful impacts which had undermined the character of the area and the amenity of local residents. The economic benefits of the processing centre did not outweigh them, the inspector held.

Inspector: Graham Self; Written representations

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