Jeremy Clarkson recalls ‘hilarious day’ on the farm
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Jeremy Clarkson, 61, has big plans for his farm Diddly Squat, but sadly it seems the sleepy village of Chadlington has other ideas. The Grand Tour star has run into numerous issues from opposing villagers, most recently for his proposed farm café, that was scuppered by a planning subcommittee – but he’s not giving up.
Cut farmers some slack
Jeremy prides himself for playing outside the rules, and vowed he would continue to fight to diversify farming to help his fellow agricultural workers that are struggling due to rules set out by local governments.
In his latest column for The Times, he launched a scathing attack on those who tried their hardest to get his case thrown out – and succeeded – but not for long.
After he spent thousands turning an unused lambing barn into a small, wood ‘n’ sawdust café, Jeremy was perplexed when planning permission was refused, despite having the backing from numerous organisations, including the parish council, Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire county council’s transport division, West Oxfordshire district council’s drainage division, their environmental health people and their business development department.
“Other farmers in the area pledged their support too, which isn’t surprising as I’d be paying rather more than what they could get selling their pork and vegetables and chickens to the supermarkets,” he joshed.
Of course there was opposition, but the job looked a good’n until he received the bad news.
He penned: “The fateful meeting where this happened was held in a puscoloured room at the headquarters of the West Oxfordshire district council, in Witney.
“Inside there was a lot of press, an angry rich couple from my local village and, facing the local civil servants and minute-takers, ten councillors from the planning subcommittee.
“I scanned them carefully, trying to spot the Liberal Democrats who might oppose my plan because I’d once hosted a car show. But they all seemed fairly decent. One was an old mate.
“Another was wearing tweed. So I was pretty relaxed when the chairman opened proceedings by inviting the rich angry couple’s barrister to explain in less than three minutes why permission for my café should be refused.
Jeremy noted that he was “looking forward to this because he had a badly spelt report containing an idiotic mathematical miscalculation”, which he believed was enough to throw out the case completely.
But despite defending himself after he had been subjected to a character assassination where his behaviour was labelled “shameful”, Jeremy was then attacked by other locals who shared their views.
“It was horrific,” he sighed, “They didn’t seem to have any facts to hand and one of them wondered why I couldn’t open the café on someone else’s farm.
“Mostly, though, they seemed to be extremely bothered by the fact that the barn was in an area of outstanding natural beauty, not understanding perhaps that it’s only beautiful because farmers keep it that way.
“They also seemed concerned about how much lighting would be needed and how this would affect the night skies. Not as much as nearby RAF.
He added cheekily: “Brize Norton does, I thought, but I wasn’t allowed to speak.
“At one point a sensible younger woman said that people in the area cared more about how many jobs would be created than how many stars they could see, but she was immediately shut down by the chap to her right who said tetchily he liked to watch The Sky at Night.
“Right. I see. Because you like watching a TV show about galaxies I shouldn’t have permission for a café.”
But even after all these constant setbacks, he remained dedicated to helping farmers continue their hard work.
“What this unholy alliance actually did was say to the thousands of struggling people who farm in a national park, or an area of outstanding natural beauty, or the Norfolk Broads, that they may not turn unused buildings into cafés or gyms or office space,” Jeremy reasoned.
“It’s nearly impossible to make money from farming these days and in recent years farmers have relied on government grants to keep going.
“But those grants are being phased out and we have been told by the government that to survive we must diversify. And now local government is saying we can’t.
“That has to be addressed, and soon, so that councils are encouraged or even ordered to cut farmers some slack.”
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