Winter Wonderland ‘will not go ahead this Christmas’ – planning inspector rules
PUBLISHED: 11:49 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:49 06 February 2020
A planning inspector has ruled against a popular festive business operating in Clacton-on-Sea.
Tendring District Council took enforcement action against St John's Nursery in September 2018 for operating a Christmas 'Winter Wonderland' because it said it breached planning rules.
Issues had been raised in 2017, when a High Court judge refused an injunction but ordered the nursery and Tendring District Council (TDC) to work together to resolve them - but the two sides failed to find a resolution.
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The council said concerns were raised about the impact on St John's Road by visitors to the site, particularly around its Winter Wonderland in the run up to Christmas, but also at other times of the year.
It argued the site only had planning permission to operate as a wholesale outlet, selling horticultural and agricultural goods to trade customers.
Enforcement was paused after the nursery appealed against the notice, but now inspector Diane Fleming has ruled in the council's favour.
She said that "The operation of the mixed use results in unacceptable harm to the living conditions of local residents and businesses", that "the levels of traffic congestion are substantial" and that sales "result in intolerable conditions".
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She rejected the nursery's argument that Winter Wonderland was "unique" and said there was no evidence that visitors went on to use other town centre businesses or attractions.
The inspector said though marshals to manage traffic flow would in theory be welcomed, "this condition is really seeking to manage a situation that should not occur in the first place".
The business has been given six months to comply and to stop the unauthorised use of the site. The inspector rejected a request from the firm to allow a year - a move he argued would in effect grant them temporary planning permission.
The council's cabinet member for planning Neil Stock welcomed the decision.
"I am pleased that the inspector has recognised the harm that this business was having not only on nearby residents, but also those who rely on St John's Road and other companies too," he said.
"We recognise the popularity and success of the venture, and are not seeking to curtail that business spirit which provides jobs in the area. However, businesses must operate within the law, in an appropriate place, and that was not happening in this instance.
"We hope now to be able to draw a line under this matter, see the site return to its former - acceptable - use, and who knows perhaps the business will look to set up a Winter Wonderland with appropriate planning permission in another, more suitable, location."
St John's Nursery has been approached for a comment.