For many years Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council operated a paper-based Street Naming and Numbering (SNN) system. It became increasingly untenable with the expansion in workload, the need to cut administration costs, and the desire from applicants to apply and pay on line.
BANES Council decided to create a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) based SNN system by linking existing technology within the Council, saving the need to buy a commercially produced module.
The main challenge associated with the build and introduction of the new SNN system was economic. The council did not have the budget to buy any new software. To avoid purchasing of a SNN module, BANES decided to build their own from pre-existing technology, and using a free open-source database. Their IT department supported the plan and contributed their expertise in linking all the parts together.
The solution was thoroughly tested internally before being made available to the public, and there were no significant problems when the facility went live.
Prior to the SNN system upgrade, BANES SNN process was entirely paper based. This resulted in extra work for the SNN officer at a time when the work load was expanding from increasing numbers of new developments. Further to this, there were cost pressures: the paper based system was not only cumbersome but incurred considerable admin costs, such as the processing of cheques (which were the primary method of payment).
BANES used an open source database to store the applications and link the following elements:
- web forms for the customer to make their application
- Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG), as source of existing addresses and to get the UPRN
- council payments system
- online UPRN based reporting system (already used for displaying Planning, Licensing and Building Control applications, and could re-purpose at no extra cost)
- a web-based dash board for the SNN officer, and other staff in their absence, to administer the cases
Currently the system is in its first phase, dealing with single new or existing properties, not multiple ones. Using this, the new system, based on open source technology, allows applicants to apply and pay on line for a SNN application and to track progress of their application. A back-office dashboard acts as an admin console for the SNN officer to manage the cases.
Outcomes and benefits
The result was and continues to be a great success in providing benefits both to users and to BANES council. These include:
To the public:
- ability to apply and pay online, giving them a 24/7 service
- applicants get a faster and more streamlined application process
- applicants can track progress of case online
To the council:
- applicants now do the data entry rather than the SNN officer
- we receive fewer phone calls from people asking about the progress of their application
- all cases are now linked to a UPRN
- payment online has substantially reduced the number of cheques received, reducing the processing cost to the Council
- when the SNN officer is away, other team members can now process cases as all the necessary information is readily available
- no ongoing costs for software maintenance
- making the process easier for applicants has led to an increase in the number of applications for changing the name of a property, which has increased income to the council.
The result exceeded expectations, with most applications now dealt with on-line. This has allowed the SNN officer to manage an expanding workload, reduced transaction costs, shortened processing time, and improved the customer
Accessing the system:
The site can be visited at;
Clicking on the blue "apply Online" button takes you to a choice between
- apply for a new address
- rename and existing property
- track your application
With an existing property, the address must be selected from a drop down list which is populated from the LLPG. For a new property, a proposed address has to be entered and the SNN officer will then link it to a UPRN using the admin dashboard.
When the details of the application have been entered, an email is sent to the applicant to confirm the application. This happens before the user is passed to the payments system to ensure that they know we have received their application even if the online payment process fails. This email contains the case reference number which allows the user to track progress of the application.
If the applicant does pay online, they get a second email confirming their payment. If they cannot pay online, they can still pay by cheque or by card over the phone to complete their application. Until they do this, the case will be flagged up as unpaid in the admin dashboard.
The success has led them to consider further developments for the future, including auto-generating the weekly list of notifications, and including more complex application types where the system would need to make a calculation of the fee required based on the number of units, for example, student accommodation.
The success has also encouraged other parts of the council to look at similar integrations for their service areas to achieve savings and improve customer service, without the need to purchase new software.
Amber Hill (Research and Communication Coordinator) - [email protected]
Martin Laker (GIS Team Leader) – [email protected]