Over the two years, Jeremy Clarkson has grown his farm to be one of the most famous farms in the United Kingdom thanks to his new Amazon Prime Video show, Clarkson’s Farm. But as he starts to expand the business, the locals of Chadlington, where the farm is based, have fought back at every point.
His latest plans of building a restaurant out of an unused lambing shed have been thrown back at him after the council rejected the proposal, but The Grand Tour presenter is yet to roll over.
Jeremy declared this a “bad day for farming”, and has continued to fight for himself and fellow farmers who are struggling with similar things across the country. Now, in his latest column, he’s launched an attack on the government after spending thousands of pounds on his plans for the restaurant despite having backing from a number of local organisations such as 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 joked.
He eventually received the bad news that his planning was rejected after it was looking very positive that it would be accepted:
“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.”
The ex-Top Gear presenter was “looking forward to this because he had a badly spelt report containing an idiotic mathematical miscalculation”, but he was quickly personally attacked as he and his apparent behaviour were labelled as “shameful”.
“It was horrific,” he admitted, “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.”
“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.”
He continued, adding that he wasn’t going to stop trying:
“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.
“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.”