Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams has asked the government to investigate whether the lowest level of local government - town and parish councils - could be given more powers to oppose major planning applications.
He spoke during a short Westminster Hall debate on 6 March 2012 on the operation of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, which started life as a private members' bill, and which is designed to give district and county councils more powers to reduce the decline of town centres.
Mr Williams cited a reform to the act that has been proposed by a town council in Suffolk - Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council - that would force developers to attend town and parish council meetings as well as requiring them to cover the cost of assessing planning applications.
Under the act, councils are able to devise "local sustainability strategies" to include measures to promote local shops and services, and reduce the amount of out-of-town developments.
However Communities and Local Government Minister Greg Clark said that a greater role should be taken by town and parish councils to draw up neighbourhood development plans as a way of having more influence in the planning process.