MPs will vote today (Friday) on legislation that could give smaller retailers more of a fighting chance against the big supermarkets.

The Sustainable Communities Bill, which is designed to give local councils and community bodies more control over planning decisions in their area and a greater say on local spending priorities, gets its second reading later today.

Nick Hurd MP, who is promoting the Bill, told The Grocer he was confident he had sufficient cross-party support to take the proposed legislation further.

“We need at least 100 MPs to vote in favour and we have many more than that from all political parties in the Commons.”

Getting the go-ahead at this stage will see the Bill passed to a committee of MPs who thrash out the details before submitting it to another Commons vote, expected to be in April.

Should the proposals receive approval then, they will go the House of Lords for approval this summer before returning to the Commons and becoming law.

Hurd, MP for Ruislip and Northwood, said: “This Bill gives people much more say over how their community looks and feels and how it is run.”

He admitted that the government, whose official line is that the Bill is unnecessary, could block the proposed legislation at any stage.

“They might, but they would be upsetting a large portion of their Parliamentary party,” he said.

Sean Carter, chief executive of the Rural Shops Alliance, said: “It's urgent that this Bill becomes law - urgent for our members. Rural shops provide a community hub and are under threat of closure.”

But the British Retail Consortium fears it will create further “bureaucratic obstacles” and slow up a planning process which can already take years. Spokesman Richard Dodd said his organisation would be lobbying MPs to highlight the Bill's flaws and get amendments to it if necessary.