The Environment Agency said it will save £1m over three years and hugely reduce the time home buyers wait for the results of environment searches on prospective properties.
Instead of waiting between three and six weeks for their solicitors to complete the process with the agency, using the online service will reduce the waiting time to just two minutes, the agency said.
Users will simply be required to key in the postcode of their desired property into the website and wait two minutes for it to provide the results.
The Enviroment Agency, which employs 200 IT staff and spends £46m per year on technology, currently meets requests for around 30,000 environmental searches from home buyers every year.
But this figure is set to rocket to over a million annual surveys, because new housing legislation due to be enacted in 2005 will make the enivromental search a compulsory part of home buying.
The Agency is investing £3m over three years in technology and a remote managed service from Computacenter to cope with the predicted 'overnight' explosion of demand for environmental searches.
It previously carried out searches manually by collecting data from over 250 core application systems, with an employee collating the results.
"With the government's changes there will be a massive increase in the number of environmental surveys carried out, and our old system could not have coped," said David Price, project manager of the Environmental Agency's Property Search Project.
"It used to take between three and six weeks for a search but it now only takes two minutes."
The government initiative is part of the National Land Information Service system, and will put the environmental search online alongside a range of other property searches.
The Agency's new infrastructure, which was developed in partnership with Computacenter, uses hardware from Sun Microsystems with applications supplied by Oracle and Weblogic.
Computacenter will remotely monitor and manage the new environment from its Service Operations Centre (SOC).
A tight service level agreement (SLA) has been set to guarantee 99.97 per cent uptime and the capability to handle three million search requests every year.
Colin Brown, sector director for government at Computacenter, said the IT services company's SOC offered customers consolidation and economies of scale through remote management services.
Computacenter already hosts the Agency's main website infrastructure.
"We also offered them savings because we used the same web infrastructure that we have already provided the Agency with," added Brown.
"The SLA is a challenge but we are accustomed to it, with the public and private sector both looking for high service levels."
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