Haymarket passport office to spare travellers trip west

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PEOPLE applying for new passports will no longer have to travel to Glasgow after the decision was made to open an office in the city's Haymarket within months.

The new passport office, which is to be located at the Apex complex, has been chosen for its convenience as people will be travelling there from all over the east of Scotland.

Haymarket is being developed as a major transport hub by the city council, linking the new-look station with tram and bus services.

The Edinburgh office - which is expected to have more than 10,000 applications a year - will have three desks.

New legislation means that from later this year, people applying for new passports will have to be interviewed after their identity has been checked.

They will have a choice of where they wish to go for a ten to 20-minute interview, which should be held within four days.

It was thought Scots would have to travel all over the country to Glasgow, which hosts one of the UK's main passport offices.

Instead, new passport offices are now being set up elsewhere across Scotland, including Stirling, Kilmarnock, Inverness, Dundee and Wick, as well as in Edinburgh.

The Home Office today declined to comment on the new Edinburgh passport office.

But a report on the proposed new offices explains how interviews will only be required for first-time applicants, as well as under-17s whose names were included on a parent's passport, but not those who have their own. An estimated 609,000 applications are expected to be handled under the system next year.

The arrival of the passport office is expected to provide a major boost to the Haymarket area, a growing commercial district of the city, which is expected to be transformed by the forthcoming development of an old goods yard site into a multi-million-pound shopping centre and office block. The city council's development firm, EDI, secured permission for the 70 million scheme last year but has put it on the market to help fund a massive equal pay settlement for the council.

HBoS recently announced it was moving into two floors of office space in the Citypoint building at Haymarket.

Other existing occupants of the same building as the passport office include the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council and TMP Worldwide.

Craig Watson, senior surveyor at letting agent Jones Lang LaSalle's Edinburgh office, said: "So far this year, Haymarket has benefited from some of the largest open plan office transactions in Edinburgh and this letting to the UK Passport Service follows HBoS and TIE Edinburgh committing to grade-A offices in the area.

"Haymarket is a strategic office location and is a crucial transport hub for the city, which will be improved further when the trams are operational by 2011.

"There is still space available at Apex 3, however, with the tightening supply of open plan offices in Edinburgh, demand is currently strong for vacant accommodation."