PLANS to ban circuses with animals from performing in Tendring have been put on hold.

Animal rights campaigner and Tendring councillor Lawrie Payne put forward a motion calling on the district council to do what it could to ban circuses with animals from performing in the district.

About 30 animal rights campaigners in the public gallery booed and stamped their feet when council chairman Nick Turner refused to allow the motion to be heard at a meeting on Thursday.

Council leader Neil Stock said he feared such a move could leave the authority open to a “possible risk of unforeseen legal consequences”.

The motion will now go to the council’s cabinet for a recommendation before being presented to councillors at the next full council meeting in October.

Mr Payne, (Lab, Harwich East) said: “I’m disgusted and outraged the chairman did not allow democracy to take place on an issue which is of a moral nature, not a political nature.

“Neither democracy nor animal welfare has been seen to be done at the meeting.

“It may be that the Conservatives did not want to be seen not to support my motion in public. If that is the case, it is a shame on them.”

The motion follows the abuse of a circus elephant by a groom – who was subsequently sacked – at the Great British Circus, which visited Clacton earlier this year.

Chris Barltrop, spokesman for the Great British Circus, said circuses with animals are legal, so the council would not have powers to refuse them a licence simply because they used them.

He said the council does not own the land it uses – Clacton Airfield – and the authority’s only jurisdiction in terms of licensing was about health and safety.