The UK Border Agency is increasingly citing planning permission issues to justify enforcement action against tier 4 sponsors.

Penningtons Solicitors LLP has been instructed by a growing number of sponsors whom the Agency alleges have broken the rules of sponsorship by failing to possess D1 planning permission. The Agency is seeking to rely on paragraph 324 (point 3) of the current tier 4 sponsor guidance which requires that, 'the organisation is genuine and is trading or operating lawfully in the United Kingdom.'

The majority of educational establishments are required by law to have D1 planning consent for each of their premises used for educational purposes. Failure to possess this may result not only in enforcement action being taken by the local planning authorities but also by the Agency.

When acquiring new premises, it is essential that sponsors check whether the appropriate planning permission is in place and if not sponsors must obtain such permission. Statements in leases that a certain use is 'permitted' are not statements of planning law.

We understand that the Agency is conducting its own enquiries with local authorities and we urgently advise all sponsors to carry out immediate checks to ensure that the necessary permissions are in place. Our commercial property, dispute resolution and immigration teams are in place to advise any sponsors who are concerned about this.