ENFORCEMENT action taken against a garden centre for allegedly trading illegally has been put on hold after plans to build 210 homes on the site were announced.

Tendring Council and the bosses at St John's Plant Centre, in Earls Hall Drive, Clacton, have been locked in a battle since the council accused the centre of operating outside of its planning permission.

The business insists it is not breaking any laws by trading as a retail garden centre and hosting a Christmas Wonderland attraction.

Tendring Council served an enforcement notice, ordering the centre to cease its retail sales and demanding it stop hosting its festive event.

Last year, the council made a failed application for a High Court injunction to shut the event down due to traffic “chaos".

The plant centre has lodged an appeal against the enforcement notice.

Now the landowners have submitted a planning application for redevelopment of the garden centre site.

The scheme is for 210 homes and eight live-work units, but do not include plans for a garden centre.

Following the application and pending the outcome of the appeal, Tendring Council has suspended its enforcement action.

A council spokesman said officers would continue to monitor the centre and its Winter Wonderland, including perceived traffic and access issues, to gather evidence ahead of the appeal.

Fred Nicholls, councillor responsible for corporate enforcement, hailed the development as a "positive step forward" in a long-running case.

“The appeal against the enforcement notice will put the case before an independent Inspector who can rule once and for all on the matter,” he said.

“The redevelopment proposals will be looked at on their own merits, as all planning applications are, and a decision either way issued accordingly.

“These proposals do not include a garden centre on the site, and I sincerely hope that St John’s Nursery has plans for a new home – which is legal and does not have the same issues with access – as we know it is a popular business."