Back in October 2015, a report into the planning process, released by property consultants GL Hearn, gained a lot of attention for describing the system as being “on the brink”. Their reasoning was that they had discovered a majority of local planning authorities (LPAs) are facing a “significant challenge” with regards to their resources, leading to a slow-down in major planning applications. Fast forward to December and we have the launch of iApply, a product that will bring some much needed fluidity to the process, increase time-saving on the part of both planning applicants and local authorities, and usher in a step-change in the way we interact with government.
Launched by Idox, iApply is the UK’s first combined online planning and building control submission service. Until now, planning applicants have had to upload applications in triplicate or multiple emails with attachments. People who use iApply will now be able to manage submissions for both planning and building control applications through a single source, using a modern, user-friendly interface that works on PC, tablet or smartphone. iApply is cloud-based and offers the possibility to share applications, authorise others to add drawings, oversee progress and make payments. Uniquely iApply allows people to search a national register to find out about approved and pending planning applications.
Other benefits which will be a boon to planning applicants include the removal of some of the problems of the old system: simultaneous bulk document upload will be enabled and larger attachments will be permitted for submission. It also provides access to planning and building control forms, including pre-application, which will help increase the number of valid digital submissions. Particular features of the product such as its automatic notification of application progress will allow for more effective resource planning and will save valuable time for councils as well as applicants.
A big supporter of the new service is Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton: “Historically applying for planning permission or building control consent has been a labour-intensive process. However, using recent technological innovations and connectivity, iApply has been developed and is now at the forefront of the new way in which we will be building for the future.”
iApply has arrived at a time when digital engagement is beginning to transform the way we interact with local authorities across the UK. The impetus for this has come from a combination of factors, but most significantly from central government funding cuts, estimated to be about 37% in real terms since 2010, as well as a rising need for services. With no sign of these trends abating, councils are increasingly turning to technological innovations in order to manage demand, according to a report by the Local Government Association. They cite East Riding of Yorkshire Council as a good example, where it has adapted to take payments by self-service through a mobile-accessible website and touch-screen kiosks.
What iApply will do is bring planning and building control into the fold of this emerging trend. With over 90% of UK local authorities as customers, successful pilot trials and similar products focused on the self-service principle still to be released, Idox looks set to help steer it towards a revolution.
For further information on iApply, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org