An all-out assault on the major retail chains is gathering pace as the deadline nears for the OFT's referral of the grocery market to the Competition Commission.

In Westminster, MPs are being mobilised to support the Sustainable Communities Bill, currently backed by 62 UK organisations, which would give independents more say on a local level about major retailers' development schemes.

More than two dozen MPs from all sides of the Commons have also proposed that urban 'no go' areas should be created, banning chains and franchisees from encroaching further.

Their move is backed by a parliamentary motion headed by LibDem Treasury spokesman Dr Vincent Cable who fears continued rent rises will see hundreds of local shops closing down. Dr Cable wants ministers to consider "business conservation areas".

Elsewhere, the London Evening Standard has launched a 'Save Our Small Shops' campaign, which it hopes will prompt the government to draft laws to preserve local shops.

And the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has recruited Sir Terence Conran to help it stop the advance of multiples of all types, including national coffee shop chains.

Supporters of the Sustainable Communities Bill include the Co-operative Group, the NFRN and the Village Retail Services Association. Meanwhile, Tory shadow business minister Mark Prisk has urged the government to start an urgent national debate on independents.

Local Works, the coalition formed by the New Economics Foundation to campaign for the Bill, has scheduled community meetings in the next two months to drum up more support.

The Bill is expected to be tabled in parliament before Easter by Lib Dem MP Julia Goldsworthy. Local Works hopes it will be taken up as a Private Member's Bill towards the end of the year.

As for the Evening Standard campaign, the BRC sounded a note of caution over ideas for business conservation areas and planning rules. A spokesman said such proposals would need to be discussed in full detail.

Elsewhere in the capital, Sir Terence is expected to lead Kensington and Chelsea's new Commission on Retail Conservation areas, which will kick off next month and deliver a formal recommendation to the Borough by summer 2007.

Merrick Cockell, Kensington and Chelsea Council Leader, said: "We want our commission of experts from the retail and commercial world and local representatives to come up with the answers."

Meanwhile, the ACS continues to spearhead the campaign for independent retailers looking for a full inquiry into the grocery market. It is meeting the OFT next week after sending through its submission in the next few days. The OFT has set a deadline of April 6 for responses.

The OFT said it had been meeting the top supermarkets. Sainsbury CEO Justin King said it was working on a submission to the consultation.