Company: JacadaCustomer: HMLRSubmitted by: Berkeley PRLand Registry Direct (LRD) is providing a rapid, secure and easy to use online service for property professionals in England and Wales using web browser-based technology.Launched in June 2000, LRD is a development of Her Majesty’s Land Registry (HMLR)’s Direct Access Service that has been made possible by Jacada® for Java software.Running over a secure extranet, LRD enables solicitors, mortgage lenders, property developers, local authorities, estate agents, emergency services and other professional users to access the register of 17 million land titles in minutes rather than days.
At its launch, Chief Land Registrar Peter Collis said “With the help of Jacada, the Land Registry has been able to offer a new online service to the benefit of its customers in a very short space of time.”
From its establishment in 1862 , HMLR traditionally kept its property titles and plans in hard copy form. People requesting information would apply by post, in person or by telephone to any one of the District Land Registries in England and Wales, and expect to wait an average of three days for delivery.In 1992, a prototype Direct Access Service was developed by HMLR’s computer services team, followed in 1994 by a formal pilot system. This quickly proved to be a success – so much so that the Land Registry soon realised that it would have to outsource some aspects of the service, due to the need to provide a very secure operating environment.By 1997, secure dial-up technology had developed sufficiently to meet the anticipated demand.
Racal Telecom (now Global Crossing) implemented a secure extranet solution that gave users access to the green screens of the IBM mainframe-based Direct Access Service.The next logical development was to update the front end. A crucial aspect of this was to convert the system from keyboard to ‘point-and-click’ mouse operation, making the system easier to learn and faster to navigate, and incorporating the ability to view scanned title plans.
The Online Solution
Jacada for Java was the tool chosen by HMLR’s Plymouth-based development teams to produce what was to become Land Registry Direct.
Without making any changes to the mainframe-based system, the Jacada solution creates a fast, secure and robust graphical user interface that also offers easier navigation.Searches can be undertaken by title number or in many cases by postal address. Title plans can be viewed online, so customers can confirm the registered extent of the title, take scaled measurements and print extracts.The development process that was carried out by a team headed up by HMLR’s Project Manager Gordon Vickers, took less than six months. LRD went into beta testing in February 2000 and was launched in June.
“Jacada for Java has enabled us to achieve precisely what we wanted – to give users an easy to use graphical front-end whilst maintaining the integrity of the background system – on time and within budget,” Vickers explains.”Equally importantly, the project has bought time for the next really major task: rewriting the existing CICS application.”
Benefits to Users
Currently around 3,000 organisations hold LRD accounts, providing access for 10,000 plus users. Solicitors, banks and building societies account for the majority, since the bulk of the LRD’s work is concerned with conveyancing.Speeding up the whole process of buying and selling houses in England and Wales is seen as highly desirable by a large part of the UK electorate, and the topic has been moving steadily up the Government’s priority list.With the successful implementation of LRD – the number of registers viewed rose from 46,000 in January 1999 to 141,000 in January 2001 and is still rising – the prospect of e-conveyancing moves a big step closer.
As other types of users see value in the information that is available, the potential market for LRD increases. Enthusiastic users of the service range from a restaurant chain looking for potential new sites to a police force seeking to discover the ownership of a property under surveillance.With online access to the databases , the cost of handling enquiries and applications has come down dramatically. As a Government agency, HMLR must pass that saving on to users. Until recently, the standard charge for a search was £8; it is now £2.
Global Crossing charges a flat fee of £100 per user ID for the duration of its contract with LRD.
One of the UK’s biggest law firms, City-based Norton Rose, has been involved with the development of LRD from the start. Operating at the top end of the property market, the firm handles portfolios worth tens of millions.Leon O’Ware, Administration Manager in their Property, Planning and Environmental Department, highlights the filed plans facility as the greatest single benefit of LRD: “Each of our fee-earners now has this information at his or her fingertips in a convenient and easy to use form. Since conveyancing accounts for around 10 per cent of the London office’s revenue, that is a priceless facility for us.
Brian Barrett, LRD’s Business Manager, sees the agency’s horizons opening up as the implications of secure online access emerge. “LRD is facilitating a fundamental change to the way HMLR serves its customers, from longer opening hours to significant system enhancements like the enhanced Real Time Priority system.”The example of LRD points a clear way forward for any organisation seeking to leverage many years’ investment in legacy systems, reduce recruitment and training costs, and make cost-effective use of browser technology – whether over the web or via dial-up connection.