Christmas Wonderland set to return - along with threats to shut it down
PUBLISHED: 19:00 18 October 2019
Organisers of a popular, yet controversial, Christmas attraction have announced the countdown to this year's opening - despite the renewed threat of being shut down over traffic concerns.
Clacton's Christmas Wonderland made the announcement on Facebook earlier this week - in a post that was met with hundreds of appreciative comments.
In previous years, the event has seen St John's Plant Centre transformed into a festive retail attraction, featuring toys and decorations as well as a miniature train to Santa's grotto, attracting thousands of visitors.
But despite proving popular with families, the organisers have faced criticism over the traffic tailbacks along the narrow access road, Earls Hall Drive.
Tendring District Council (TDC) applied for a High Court injunction to shut the event down in 2017, which cost taxpayers £8,700 but proved unsuccessful.
Last year, the council again tried to shut it down with an enforcement notice. TDC had claimed the business had poor access, which caused highways problems, and was only permitted to operate as a wholesale outlet. It said the business must stop trading as a retail garden centre and hosting its Wonderland event.
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The business had applied permission to widen its road - but TDC said it did not go far enough to resolve the problems.
The company went into liquidation in January of this year and a planning application to redevelop the garden centre site with 210 homes and eight live-work units was submitted.
The planning application is currently at the consultation stage. Meanwhile, preparations are gearing up for Christmas Wonderland's return.
But TDC leader Neil Stock said the enforcement action against the business was still on hold, pending an appeal.
"A hearing by a planning inspector has begun, and until we get the result of that any enforcement action is paused. At this point we have no estimated decision date," he added.
"Should we win the appeal, there will be a period of time given by the inspector for compliance, and therefore any enforcement action will not begin immediately."
The business did not respond to requests for comment. However it has previously said it was entitled to undertake retail sales directly to the public and it planned to be open as normal. Previous attempts to shut the event down have seen customers rally in support, with thousands signing a petition against the enforcement action.