Jeremy Clarkson has been backed by fellow farmers, food producers and local Oxfordshire residents after his plans to build a hilltop restaurant were turned down by the council.
The Amazon Prime star, 61, said he was ‘very’ frustrated after local officials refused his attempt to build a new restaurant and 70-space car park on the site of his 1,000-acre Diddly Squat farm near the quiet village of Chadlington, Oxfordshire.
Mr Clarkson personally attended a meeting of West Oxfordshire District Council’s planning sub-committee on Monday in a last-ditch attempt to push his plans through but seven out of ten councillors voted against the plans.
The Grand Tour host left the meeting saying it was a bad day for farmers and labelled one of the planning officials a comedian.
But he has found support in his community among those who say council planners are dismissive of new ideas in farming.
Jeremy Clarkson has been backed by fellow farmers, food producers and local Oxfordshire residents after his plans to build a hilltop restaurant were turned down
Pete Ledbury, who farms at the North Cotswolds Dairy with his wife Emma a few miles from the Diddly Squat farm, told The Guardian: ‘We know that we have to diversify to make a living and create more jobs for the countryside.
‘Turning down projects like this doesn’t help. I think it’s pretty shortsighted of the planners.’
His wife Emma said their farm has lost 40 of their 100-strong herd of pedigree holstein cattle to bovine tuberculosis in recent years as she outlined the pressure farmers are facing at the moment.
A litre of milk costs them 32p to produce, and supermarket buyers are currently paying them 28p a litre.
TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s controversial bid to expand his popular Diddly Squat farm failed after councillors rejected his application
She said: ‘British farming is a mess.’
Clarkson has overcome some of these obstacles by selling directly to the customer via a vending machine at his farm shop.
He was hoping to include his own produce including milk, cream and butter at his restaurant before his plans were dismissed.
Fellow Cotswolds resident Max Abbott, who owns Sourdough Revolution bakery in Lechdale, had hoped to supply bread to Clarkson’s prospective restaurant.
He said: ‘Jeremy is employing people, bringing in money. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea but what the council is doing seems absurd.’
Pictured: The landscape proposal for Diddly Squat Farm including a 70-vehicle car park
Pictured: The planting proposal for the cafe which would sit just behind his current farm shop on the site
Victoria Steffens, who works in the Chadlington village shop, says it is mainly newcomers who are upset with Clarkson over the levels of traffic his farming success has brought to the area.
Describing the TV personality as ‘marmite’, she said she still supports him to provide jobs in the area and locals who have been there for a long time know the struggles farmers are facing.
Meanwhile district councillor Merilyn Davies who supported Clarkson’s proposals, said the plans were ‘interesting’ and said officials have to remember people live in the region and need to provide for themselves.
More than 50 objections were registered with the council over fears of increased traffic in the village following the success of his hit series Clarkson’s Farm.
Since the Amazon show’s debut last summer, hundreds of Clarkson fans from across Britain have caused traffic chaos by queueing for hours at a time to get inside the star’s beloved farm shop.
Since the Amazon Prime show’s debut last summer, hundreds of Clarkson fans from across Britain have queued for hours at a time to get inside the star’s beloved farm shop
One neighbour even brought a legal challenge against the restaurant plans, alleging that the area was in danger of becoming a ‘Jeremy Clarkson theme park’.
At Monday’s meeting, Mr Clarkson insisted that he is simply trying to ‘diversify’ his business and warned that farmers will be unable to properly look after the natural environment because of their finances.
‘Farmers look after the woodland, they look after the hedges, the streams and the fields, they keep it beautiful,’ he said.
‘Farmers are not going to be able to do that for much longer because of the farmers’s state of finances. We have been told as farmers to diversify — that is exactly what this proposal is.’
Though councillors at the meeting were split over Mr Clarkson’s proposals, local officials agreed to refuse permission.
They argued that the cafe would be ‘out of keeping’ with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Mr Clarkson personally attended a meeting of West Oxfordshire District Council’s planning sub-committee in a last-ditch attempt to push his plans through
His pleas fell on deaf ears, with seven out of ten councillors voting against the measures
Locals are split about the surge in tourism, with some saying it has put the Oxfordshire village on the map and boosted the local economy
Council planning officer Joan Desmond said: ‘By reason of its siting, design, scale and location, the proposed development would not be sustainable and would not be compatible or consistent in scale with the existing farming business or its open countryside location.
‘By reason of its design, scale, siting and nature of the use within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the proposed development would have a visually intrusive and harmful impact on the rural character, scenic beauty and tranquillity of the area.’
Councillor Dean Temple, who represents Chadlington, told the meeting: ‘With a heavy heart, I propose we reject this proposal.’
And councillor Elizabeth Poskitt added: ‘There are plenty of less obtrusive places where one could have a restaurant.’
The TV presenter had hoped to convert a lambing shed built in 2020 after buying a new flock of sheep to expand the farm business. It has now been merged with another local farmer’s flock.
Documents state that the building has since been used, without planning permission, as a cafe and a bar area.
Chadlington Parish Council said it held a public meeting in November to decide its view on the ‘divisive and contentious’ application, but a vote was inconclusive.
Campaign to Protect Rural England West Oxfordshire said any new restaurant would be a ‘major incursion’ into the AONB and would ‘spoil the rural nature of the Upper Evenlode Valley’.
Mr Clarkson’s representatives had already been forced to change transport plans for the scheme with a new one way system and overflow car park to try and appease the mounting number of objectors.
He had also been served with a notice following complaints that the farm shop had breached original planning conditions by selling out-of-town souvenirs.
The council served the contravention notice amid allegations that products sold in its shop were not grown, reared or produced on the farm, or from other local producers.
If proved, that would be in contravention of a condition of the planning permission in November 2019, the council warned.