Chris Kendall, Digital Strategy Lead at Idox outlines how the new digital platform iApply is bringing benefits to the planning and building control sectors…
Idox, a leading supplier of software, services and digital engagement to the public sector and increasingly to highly regulated asset intensive industries around the world in the wider corporate sector, launched iApply at the end of last year (December 2015). The launch follows months of intense development and design work, along with extensive field testing. The new service, which aims to facilitate and simplify the process of submitting planning and building control applications, is already receiving acclaim from its early adopters. We spoke with Chris Kendall, Digital Strategy Lead at Idox, about iApply, its introduction and the benefits it can bring to the planning and building control sectors.
How did the idea for iApply come about?
Over the last 12-18 months, Idox has been developing a Local Government Digital Platform to provide a suite of interchangeable tools and services that, when combined together, offer an all-encompassing solution.
The idea of the Digital Platform is to make easily accessible the components needed to offer a single source for all local government online applications with the aim of helping people interact with their local authority.
iApply is the first product developed for this new platform. Although offering the planning and building control sectors a decisive step-change, it is also the first stop on a journey to achieving a much larger vision across all government interactions.
Why was iApply the first product to be developed?
Timing was a key factor in our decision to develop the iApply service. The Government decided to commercialise the planning process. It put the previously government-run platform for planning applications, the Planning Portal, out to tender and opened the market to competition. With our knowledge of the sector, combined with our technical expertise, this seemed an ideal product for us to focus on. In addition to planning applications, we decided to go one step further. iApply also enables building control submissions from the same platform, being the first web portal to offer this combined service.
What are the benefits of iApply?
One of the biggest early advantages of iApply is the ability to submit all planning applications and building control submissions from a single source. The system mitigates the need for applicants to create multiple applications for a single project, or send numerous emails with attachments, resulting in resource and time savings and offering efficiency across an improved, streamlined process.
Other benefits of the service include the ability to work collaboratively with clients and suppliers, sharing application details and progress. iApply enables authorisation, progress tracking and even payments to be made. It sends notifications of any changes to the status of an application, negating the need to visit websites or make telephone calls to the relevant departments seeking updates. Not only is the service designed to guide users through the whole process – from pre-application enquiries to building control approval – it also provides a national register of planning applications. This information is currently publicly available, but iApply is the only online source that gathers it in one place, making it searchable by area, postcode or free text.
What input have users had in the development of iApply?
We’ve been working closely with many local authorities and private businesses, testing iApply to ensure a fit-for-purpose, robust system. By running a pilot project to test the system and engaging with stakeholders, we’ve been able to gather feedback and input from both sides, to ensure that we introduced an end product that has tangible benefits for every user. And since Idox already has a technical relationship with almost every UK local authority, it makes the implementation of iApply straightforward and seamless. For the ‘submitters’, it is simply a case of visiting the website and using the tools, which will guide them through the application process.
Why has iApply been positioned as providing the industry with a step-change?
Local authorities have welcomed the launch of iApply, as it comes at a time when planning and building control departments are under increasing pressure to reduce spending. iApply not only benefits the applicant, but also the planning and building control departments from the improved efficiencies generated by the service. Long term, it’s to everyone’s advantage to adopt this new technology, as we all have the devices and tools required to use iApply at our disposal.
For further information on iApply, please visit www.iapply.co.uk or watch the introductory video highlighting just some of the major advantages of investing in the service https://iapply.co.uk/lgdp/#why
Building Control Partnership adopts iApply
North Yorkshire Building Control Partnership (NYBCP) was the first Local Authority Building Control Partnership in the UK. The partnership provides a flexible and modern building control service on behalf of Hambleton, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby councils.
NYBCP was one of the local authorities involved in the iApply pilot project and has since become one of iApply’s early adopters. Les Chapman, Head of Building Control at NYBCP explains why: “We have been working with Idox since 2012 and the company has already helped us streamline our online service. The introduction of iApply seemed like an obvious next step and we were keen to be involved in the initial pilot, as it gave us the opportunity to ensure that it would work effectively for our customers.
One of the things that has made iApply such an attractive proposition is how simple and intuitive the product is to use. The fact that our applicants can use iApply to collaborate with others involved in the project – from the architect to the client – is also a major benefit, as is the ability to pay online. In addition, iApply will help us become more efficient and our aim is to be able to turn building notices around within one day.”
iApply key features
iApply offers a step-change for the planning and building control sectors. It provides:
- a single-source for all online submissions
- a cloud-based and mobile-friendly solution
- time and efficiency savings
- unrestricted file sizes
- improved validation and transparency
- access to submission details
- enhanced application tracking and notification
- opportunities to collaborate
- a national register of planning applications.
Digital Strategy Lead