Jeremy Clarkson’s farm is the “crown jewel” of sustainable agriculture, say the villagers

Jeremy Clarkson at Memorial Hall in Chadlington where he held a showdown meeting with local residents on concerns over his Oxfordshire (PA) farm shop (PA Archive)

Villagers defending Jeremy Clarkson’s farm shop have described it as the ‘crown jewel’ of sustainable living as they plead with their local council to allow its expansion plans.

A two-day meeting of the Planning Inspectorate continued on Wednesday to review proposals by the 62-year-old former Top Gear presenter to widen the car park at his Oxfordshire farmhouse to accommodate 70 vehicles.

Charlie Ireland, the real estate agent who appears in the Amazon Prime series Clarkson’s Farm, also spoke at the hearing to defend the farm.

The plans are being opposed by West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) on the grounds that it would encourage more visitors to Diddly Squat farm – which is between Chadlington and Chipping Norton – adding to traffic problems.

Jeremy’s followers don’t have much knowledge of farming – I’ve had to explain to people that burgers come from a cow – and they travel long distances in the hope of being able to see it, but also to experience the farming they’ve seen on TV

Diddly Squat restaurateur Annabel Gray

The WODC also said allowing more vehicles would further disturb the tranquility of the Cotswolds Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Chadlington resident Hilary Moore described the tourists attracted to the farm as ‘motorheads’ who drive slowly on the surrounding roads to ‘show off their cars’.

Annabel Gray, 32, who works in a caravan at the Clarkson Farm on Wednesday, said that description is “unfair” and she “saw locals” adding to traffic problems even by driving slowly.

He added that the farm’s 16-year-old workers had to “wear body cameras” as a precaution following “abuse” directed against them by villagers.

Ms Gray, who is also a farmer’s daughter, said the farm shop provides “important” education for visitors, some of whom don’t realize that “hamburgers come from a cow”.

He said at the hearing: “Diddly Squat has an important opportunity to educate people about local farming and I find it really frustrating that the council are neglecting this.

“There are few places where you can experience where we get our food from.

“Jeremy’s followers don’t have much knowledge of agriculture – I’ve had to explain to people that beef burgers come from a cow – and they travel long distances hoping to see it, but also to experience the agriculture they saw on TV.

“They buy something that is produced by the local farming community and they get excited about it and then they go look for it in their local communities.

“This is a huge, huge opportunity for WODC. I beg you this is something that can be improved rather than turn away.

The Diddly Squat farm could be the flagship of the sustainable agriculture movement

Local butcher and Diddly Squat purveyor Henry Lawrence

Local butcher and Diddly Squat purveyor Henry Lawrence, 33, said the store could be “the crown jewel” of sustainable agriculture and that his business has grown “dramatically” since trading with it.

Mr Lawrence, owner of Hook Norton Butchers, said: “I would like to see a car park with the right capacity, not only for the success of the farm shop, but also for the success of local businesses.

“The Diddly Squat Farm could be the flagship of the local sustainable agriculture movement.”

Chadlington Parish Council chairman Andrew Hutchings, 56, stressed there were ‘a range of opinions’ about the farm in the village, but most agreed it ‘has clearly exceeded what it was built for’.

He said: “We’ve reached a tipping point between a farm shop and a tourist-type attraction for people who want to see the celebrity and the farm.

“The problem comes when you have too many visitors…traffic is a big problem for the community at large.

“When you have a site that has significant traffic issues and can’t handle the number of visitors, should we add more services and features that allow more people to spend more time on the premises?

“It’s very difficult to see the proposed parking deal with it at peak times.”

WODC argued that the parking lot expansion signifies a shift in the use of its land from retail to “recreation,” which would require several design considerations.

Clarkson’s solicitor Richard Kimblin KC disputed this, saying the extra parking reflected the growing demand for the store alone due to its “remarkable success selling farm produce”.

The council’s attorney said if Clarkson’s business operated solely as a company store, visitors would only stay for “about five minutes” to buy their goods, so space for up to 70 vehicles is “too big” .

We’ve heard about the employment which is great, we’ve heard about the local businesses we’ve been able to support – it’s a really exciting business to be a part of

Charlie Ireland

Visitors had previously been heard to stay longer to ‘take selfies’, meet Clarkson, who also now hosts Who Wants To Be Millionaire, and spend a day at the site.

Mr Ireland said tourists spend ‘more than five minutes’ visiting the farm shop because, due to its popularity, they often have to queue for entry.

He added that in addition to promoting local employment, the farm contributes to local biodiversity through flowers planted to attract bees.

Mr Ireland added: “We have some new produce on the way and it’s now a vibrant farming business.

“We’ve heard about the employment, which is great, we’ve heard about the local businesses that we’ve been able to support – it’s a really exciting business to be a part of.”

WODC had previously closed a restaurant that Clarkson opened last year – allegedly without planning permission – and the TV presenter has since said he never plans to reopen.

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