CIRCUSES which use animals could be banned from Tendring unless they agree to strict new rules.

The move comes after animal rights campaigner and Tendring councillor Lawrie Payne pressed for an outright ban on circuses with animals performing in the district.

Colleagues were sympathetic, but feared the council might not have the power to impose a total ban.

Instead, it is now asking officials to draw up an animal welfare charter, with a clause making it harder for animal circuses to come to the district.

The clause will stipulate no circuses or travelling shows using animals will be allowed unless animals * Have a suitable environment and diet * Exibit normal behaviour patterns * re protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Mr Payne said: “I am extremely pleased. Not only have we put in place a mechanism which will, hopefully, stop circuses using animals on council land, it will also have implications for any circus with animals coming to the district in the future.

“This is a good day for animal welfare in Tendring.”

The charter is expected to come into force at the start of next year.

In August, the Great British Circus was embroiled in a row after secret filming showed a groom hitting elephants with a metal hook. The worker was fired, but protests were staged when the circus arrived in Clacton and Stanway a few weeks later.

Chris Barltrop, spokesman for the Great British Circus, has suggested the council has no legal power to refuse the circus a licence to perform on animal welfare grounds.

While in Clacton in the summer, he claimed: “The council does not have direct jurisdiction over the land we use – Clacton Airfield.

“Its only jurisdiction, in terms of licensing, is about health and safety.

“A council may not refuse to give a licence based on what is in the show, unless there is something illegal. Circuses with animals, as long as they are properly run, are not against the law.”