Despite opposition from the Government, the Sustainable Communities Bill – a private member’s bill that aims to give new powers to communities and their elected authorities to direct government policy to reverse ‘Ghost Town Britain’ – passed its 2nd reading in the House of Commons on 19 January 2007.
The Bill makes provision for the Secretary of State to publish action plans to promote the sustainability of local communities and to enable local authorities and communities to participate in the formulation and implementation of these plans.
This step has been welcomed by retra’s chief executive, Mark Hayward:
“The Sustainable Communities Bill, which retra supports, is an important initiative with considerable cross-party back bench support. MPs of all political persuasions are now waking up to the fact that if steps are not taken soon to reverse the decline of small businesses and services that are at the heart of our communities, both urban and rural, it will be too late. The attitude the Government now takes, as the Bill enters its Committee and Report stages, is crucial. Private members bills rarely make it on to the statute book. Tacit government support, at very least, will be needed”.
The decline of local communities in Britain is clearly demonstrated by the following facts:
– Between 1999-2004, 3,700 post offices were closed (21% decline);
– Between 2000-2005, 8,600 independent grocery stores closed (25% of the total);
– Between 1996-2006, independent electrical retail outlets declined from 8,000+ to 3,500 (over 50%).