Council’s failed attempt to shut down Christmas Wonderland cost taxpayers £8,700

Santa and his elves at Christmas Wonderland in Clacton. Picture: CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND

Santa and his elves at Christmas Wonderland in Clacton. Picture: CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND - Credit: Archant

A north Essex council has defended spending nearly £9,000 of taxpayers’ money on a failed legal bid to shut down a “Christmas Wonderland”.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, Tendring District Council (TDC) confirmed its legal fees in bringing a High Court injunction against the Clacton event last December came to £6,500 plus a further £750 on court fees.

With VAT, the total cost of its legal action came to £8,700 – but proved unsuccessful as the judge rejected the bid.

The council said it had taken the action claiming it was an unauthorised business and had defied a temporary stop notice.

However visitors to the event had criticised the council’s actions, labelling it “killjoys” and “Scrooges”. Thousands signed a petition supporting the business.

When asked whether the legal costs were justified, a TDC spokesman said that while the outcome of the court action was disappointing, the council was right to take the matter before a judge – who ruled it was a “finely balanced” case.

“We did not take action without a great deal of consideration,” he added.

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The council spokesman said the authority had not been prepared to stand by and allow what it considered to be a “blatant disregard” for the planning process to go unchallenged.

At the time of the High Court decision, Christmas Wonderland’s Tom Bowden said he was “delighted by the verdict”, which he claimed would save 120 jobs.

“It would seem to be a complete waste of taxpayers’ money spent on London barristers, including time and effort, which could have been much better spent on other issues within Tendring district,” he added.

“We understand that there are planning issues, but these could have been sorted differently without having to go this far. We will be working with TDC in January regarding 2018.”

Christmas Wonderland’s Facebook post added: “Santa is saved”.

Christmas Wonderland, which saw St John’s Plant Centre transformed to offer visitors Christmas animations, Santa’s workshops as well as festive decorations and toys, remained open until Christmas Eve after defeating the injunction.

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