Jeremy Clarkson has been ordered to shut the restaurant on his Oxfordshire farm despite claiming a “loophole” in the law allowed him to open it without planning permission.
The 62-year-old presenter opened the Diddly Squat Farm’s restaurant in July to rave reviews, with customers braving three-hour queues to sample its food.
However, the grand opening came amid an ongoing planning row with the local council, which had denied his application to create a restaurant on the farm in late 2021.
On Thursday, it emerged that the Top Gear star was issued an enforcement notice by West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) in August ordering him to shut down the popular eatery.
In the enforcement notice, WODC claimed that the parking, toilets, traffic, as well as the dining installed by Clarkson’s farm is “visually intrusive and harmful” to the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But Clarkson, whose new life in farming has entertained the nation in the hit Amazon television series Clarkson’s Farm, has since hit back by appealing the notice.
In July, the presenter was jubilant when he said he found a “delightful little loophole” allowing him to open the restaurant despite being denied planning permission, albeit on a different site to the original one.
Although he has never clarified which alleged loophole he was referring to, the appeal lodged with the council mentioned permitted development rights under Town and Country Planning Order 2015.
These allow landowners to bypass normal regulations if certain criteria are met, such as the change of use of agricultural buildings to a flexible commercial use.
One, known as Class R, permits an agricultural building used as a farm shop to be developed for commercial use without permission as long as it does not exceed 150 square metres and was in agricultural use in July 2012.
Clarkson’s “lambing shed” in a nearby field on the farm now seats seven tables of four outside and charges £49 a head for a menu of beef sharing dishes, excluding service and drinks.
Agents working on behalf of Clarkson have said they are not in breach of planning laws, claiming that the council’s decision is “excessive”.
The John Phillips Planning Consultancy stated in their Sept 9 appeal against the enforcement notice that existing planning permission gives them the right to use the farm as a restaurant, and there has been no “material change” to the land.
However, the council said in the enforcement notice that the restaurant was an “unlawful use of Diddly Squat Farm”, adding that it is “unsuitable and incompatible with its open countryside location”.
The notice ordered the shutting of the restaurant as well as the removal of the dining tables, chairs, parasols, picnic tables, and mobile toilet.
Clarkson’s appeal states that the sale of food and use of tables and chairs at Diddly Squat are all “lawful” and it would take longer than the six weeks that the council has given them to remove the items.
The local council told The Telegraph that the farm “continues to operate outside the planning permissions granted” and that “advice has been ignored”.
A spokesman for the WODC said: “Council officers have worked with the owner and planning agents of the business, over many months, to investigate breaches in planning control, advising on how the business can be operated in a lawful way and trying to reach a solution.
“It is the responsibility of the Council to ensure that planning laws and processes are followed correctly.”
Mr Clarkson previously had two planning applications rejected by the WODC.
Papers served by the Planning Inspectorate show it has accepted Clarkson’s appeal as valid and that representations must be made in coming weeks.
A spokesman for the WODC said that it would “detail the breaches of planning control and the reasons why it considers the notice should be upheld and the appeal dismissed” to the Inspectorate. The statement said that the “determination of the Inspector is binding on the parties”.
The council spokesman added that “the activity has also had a significant impact on the local community” in the Cotswolds.
Clarkson bought the farm in 2008 but it was run by a villager until his retirement in 2019, after which the TV presenter decided to see if he could run it himself.
Representatives for Clarkson have been contacted for comment.