After more than 5 years of campaigning, there is now a Sustainable Communities Act on the statute book. Although Liberal Democrat MPs, with the party's tradition of community politics, were prominent in pushing the Bill through, it has been a cross-party effort. Here we should acknowledge the support given by Dr Hywel Francis, the MP for Aberavon.
As a result, the government is now committed to make local communities work. By October of this year, it will have to ask every council, like Neath Port Talbot CBC, to submit suggestions of ways that it can help you and your council make your community more sustainable. Neath Port Talbot council must ask your opinion of what these suggestions should be.
This will be done through citizens panels, drawn from all sections of the community.
This is a new bottom-up process. The policies to create sustainable communities will be driven by us, as citizens, not by bureaucrats in Cardiff or Westminster.
More details on how the Act will work will appear on the Unlock Democracy web site.
In the meantime, the Local Works campaign is asking for support for a Private Members Bill which will enable local decision-making in the field of energy conservation. Michael Fallon's Planning and Energy Bill would allow councils, after involving their communities, to set high energy efficiency standards for new developments and to require them to generate energy by local on-site technologies.
The government is not yet backing the Bill. Our MPs should be asked to be present in the House of Commons next Friday, 25th January, when the Bill reaches its next stage, and to support it.
We should also write to the minister for local communities, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper, House of Commons, LONDON SW1A 0AA, demanding that the government back the Bill and not talk it out.