West Midlands council finishes 15-month migration of property data to new system

Sandwell Council has migrated more than one million records on individual properties to a new property management system in time to meet a nationwide end-of-2005 deadline to offer planning application searches online.

Sandwell Council has migrated more than one million records on individual properties to a new property management system in time to meet a nationwide end-of-2005 deadline to offer planning application searches online.

The new system will also leave the council well-placed to handle the expected arrival of home information packs in 2007.

The metropolitan borough council moved the records from its local land charge register and the COM 29 form, which also holds information about properties.

Council officers needed to make their planning records searchable and also wanted to make their property records searchable ahead of the launch of home information packs.

From June 2007, anyone selling a residential property will have to provide a pack with all the publicly available information about that property. Councils have a statutory duty to record land charges and other property information, such as environmental health records.

Sandwell's planning systems and service improvement manager, Calvin Bradley, said, "We migrated data regarding planning histories, building regulations, passwords information, whether there are public rights of way, conservation areas and listed buildings."

The property records were migrated to CAPS Solutions' Uniform system. Solicitors and council officers searching for information about properties use a different application, called CAPS Total Land Charges to extract information from Uniform.

The implementation of both CAPS systems and the ongoing maintenance of them are covered by a seven-year managed service contract.

The contract with systems integrator MacDonald Dettwiler will cost the council more than £1m over the life of the contract. The managed service contract started in October 2005 after Sandwell spent 15 months implementing the applications and migrating the data.

Council officers were able to do the first searches using the new systems last November.

Sandwell has 120 licences for the two applications. Bradley said, "We have just implemented an increase in the number of licences. That's been a good thing for us because it shows people have been using the data on a regular basis."

The cost of implementing CAPS was increased by the need to interface the applications with a system called Flare used by the council's environmental health department.

The property management systems are connected to the National Land Information Service hub, which enables solicitors to initiate searches and receive the results of them electronically.

Planning application searches are also possible for the public through Sandwell's own website.

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