One thing that concerns me though (and the reason i haven't acquired a passport up to now) is whether my application will automatically add my details to the NIR? If so, is there any way of opting out?
Finally, as there is no longer a fast track system for first time adult passports, I would be really grateful if somebody with recent experience could give me some idea of how long their application took from date of postage to receipt of passport.
You won't be added to the NIR - it doesn't exist yet.
if and when the NIR exists you will not be able to opt out as the passport is a designated document: you will be able to opt out of having card. This makes clear the mistruth perpetrated by Brown last week that the ID card scheme isn't mandatory.
Can't comment on the timing - but now is not the busiest time of the year.