As we look back on an event-packed 2012, and realise that the full effect of the Government cuts has yet to be felt, there is a greater need than ever to strengthen and empower local communities across the country. We need to join together to create warmth and humanity in what could be a bleak 2013.
Until I had my son Isaac, two, I didn't think any kids lived on our street. It was so quiet, the only time we saw our neighbours was when they got home from work or washed their car. But when I brought home my bundle of joy back in November 2008, half the street came out of the woodwork and admitted to having children under eight. So where were they?
The new National Planning Policy Framework is a big chance to make Britain better for future generations as well as our own. That is what sustainability is all about. We are determined that the beguiling convenience of the present must not overshadow the needs of the new generation and those that will follow them. There is no reason why growth should mean ugliness. It can - and should - improve our physical environment. Anyone who thinks otherwise should take a tour around our great cities, towns and villages and consider the diminished place that Britain would be if our forebears had been adamant in their opposition to new development.
Seven months is a long time in legislation. It was only last December that the Localism Bill was published amid a fanfare of radical decentralisation, communities "in control" and a "power shift" to those who know their areas best. New radical rights to draw up neighbourhood plans were unveiled and communities pricked up their ears and wondered.