The Diddly Squat battle: Tourists praise Clarkson's farm restaurant

The Diddly Squat battle: Tourists praise Clarkson’s farm restaurant as camp boss enjoys surge in bookings with fans ‘coming from Europe and the US’ to see the star – but angry locals slam ‘idiot’ drivers and say ‘Jeremy does what Jeremy wants’

  • EXCLUSIVE Local businesses defend Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farm which they say is ‘welcome’
  • Next-door campsite said people from around the world stay there just to visit the farm after seeing it on TV
  • Today the cafe and restaurant – which was ordered to close by the council – was heaving with fans 
  • However, the farm has caused controversy locally, with some claiming it has changed the area for the worse 

Local businesses and fans who travelled from all over the country to visit Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farm restaurant have defended it today, after it was handed an enforcement notice to close by the council.  

The ‘popular’ farm café and restaurant has come under attack after it was ordered to shut by the council who claimed his business breached planning laws – but Clarkson is appealing. 

One local business said they were in favour of the farm, which brought people from across the world to visit after seeing it on the Amazon Prime Video series Clarkson’s Farm. 

And today it was heaving with people who had come from across the UK to sip pints and tuck into burgers at the restaurant.

However not everyone is happy and some angry locals have claimed the area has changed for the worse – with more traffic and tourists pouring into the Cotswold village – since it opened in July.

Jeremy Clarkson is appealing an order to close his Diddly Squat cafe and restaurant after council bosses claimed the business breached planning laws

Today Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farm restaurant was heaving with people who had travelled from all over the country to visit it

John and Beverley Roebuck had travelled with their children John and Bethany, and her partner Matthew Johnson to the Diddly Squat Farm restaurant in Chadlington today

Steve Tomlinson, who manages the next-door Chipping Norton Camping and Caravanning Club, told MailOnline that ‘literally hundreds if not thousands’ of people chose to stay there because of Diddly Squat Farm.

‘Over a season, literally hundreds of people, if not thousands, come to the campsite especially for that. They come from all over Europe and even America, just for that,’ he said.

‘We have 30 units a week and most of them say, “I’ve come here because of Diddly Squat”. 95 per cent of the people on the campsite go to the farm. 

‘We had a guy come here in the summer, he was doing an around-the-world trip on his motorbike, and he had come from Michigan. Diddly Squat Farm was the only place in the whole of the UK he visited.’   

He continued: ‘It brings in thousands of pounds worth of business every week for the area. The campsite, shops and pubs in the area, petrol stations, the market.

‘I can’t speak for the town but it’s very popular amongst most of the businesses I’ve spoken to.’

‘There’s no objections to the farm shop from us at all, we welcome it here. 

‘I think the council are being petty. For the amount of business it brings to the area, it’s petty. If he was farmer Joe Bloggs it wouldn’t be a problem.’

The Chipping Norton Camping and Caravan Club is next-door to Diddly Squat Farm and they say people come from all over the world and stay at the campsite just to visit the farm

Meanwhile, the restaurant was heaving with hundreds of fans who had travelled from all parts of the country to eat burgers and swill lager in a wind-swept lambing shed.

And as they gazed out at a view of the Cotswold’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most expressed incomprehension at the rules which make it impossible for local planners to give approve it.

By midday, the car park, which can manage 30 cars, was full and a greater number were parked on the Chipping Norton Road which leads off an A-road down to the village of Chadlington.

Locals have objected strongly to the development ever since Clarkson’s Farm became a sensational hit on Amazon Prime last year and brought thousands of fans to the outskirts of their tranquil village.

And the local planning committee of West Oxfordshire District Council, who rejected his application to open the restaurant earlier this year, have served him with an enforcement notice – which he is appealing.

They say he could open the business on the other side of the road which is not an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and accuse him of courting controversy for the sake of ratings.

But the overwhelming majority of punters enjoying £10 burgers and pints for £5.60 were not local and could not understand the fuss.

They came from all over the country and represented all generations, unable to resist the combination of celebrity and gorgeous views.

They sat at wicket wooden tables and gripped their plastic cups to prevent the wind from blowing them away.

The council has described an ‘unlawful’ use of the farm and said its ‘nature, scale and siting is unsustainable and incompatible with its countryside location within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’

Owen James, 23, and friend Ben Brown, 29, both floor layer directors, were on a day-trip from Canterbury in Kent. They had bought a litre of milk for £1.20 and were tucking into burgers.

‘There is a Ford Mustang specialist around the corner,’ said Owen, ‘so my car is being fixed and we have come in to look at the Farm and have a bite to eat.

‘I don’t see what the problem is. He is employing plenty of people and trying to make a living. I’ve always been a fan.’

Ben added: ‘I have learnt lots about farming from the programme and I think he is doing good, bringing business to the local area.’

The Roebuck family from Saddleworth, West Yorkshire, were down for a weekend to mark John and Beverley’s 40th wedding anniversary.

Daughter Bethany, 33, an architect, said: ‘We have all watched the programme and had good reports from people so decided to come and see it for ourselves.’

Her partner, Matthew Johnson, 32, himself a farmer, added: ‘Farmers do not make any money so it is important they can do stuff like this. It is bringing business to the area.’

Son Elliot, 28, who lives in London, said: ‘I am sure the locals do not want all the tourists but without this we would not be here enjoying this great view.’

Dad John, a clinical dental technician, said: ‘They don’t like anyone who is successful. I can’t see how this place is doing any harm.’

Personal trainers Joel Reddington, 23 and girlfriend Megan Brown, 22, were spending three nights in the Cotswolds from their home in Norfolk. Both had watched Clarkson’s Farm.

Joel said: ‘It’s a really nice atmosphere and it’s not just a few Jeremy Clarkson products. This is a big draw for people so I don’t really get what the objections are.

‘I have friends who are farmers and they say Clarkson has done more for farmers than the National Farmers Union ever did.’

Megan said: ‘I know there are rules and regulations but I just can’t see any harm in it. The farm programme is just such a good family watch. I am not surprised there are a lot of people who want to see it for themselves.’

Owen James and Ben Brown from Kent tucking into burgers at the Diddly Squat Farm restaurant in Chadlington today

Nathan and Gemma Walker, both 27, had come from Suffolk to Diddly Squat Farm restaurant on Friday with their dog Opel

Nathan and Gemma Walker, both 27, had come from Suffolk with their dog Opel.

Nathan, an engineer, said: ‘We have had a week away in the Cotswolds and have come in here on our way home.

‘We had heard all about it and wanted to see it as we both love the show. I think it is really good. The only thing that could be improved is the parking as we had to park on the side of the road.’

Gemma, who works in IT, added: ‘I don’t think he is doing any harm. I think if they sorted the parking out then the locals would have nothing to worry about.’

Kaya Cengiz, 20, and Holly Eccles, 23, were marking her birthday with a day-trip to Clarkson’s farm from Reading.

Kaya, a mechanic, said: ‘It seems a bit pathetic to me that anyone would object to this place. It is just a barn in the middle of nowhere with a lot of people having a good time.

‘Maybe the locals want a nice quiet village but this place is not in the middle of the village. It is totally isolated.’

Holly, a social media manager, said: ‘The locals could come here themselves. I would if I lived in the area. The food is all local and tastes good. I don’t know why they are kicking up a fuss.’

In the lambing shed, a stall offered various Clarkson-related products – socks, gin, candles said to smell of ‘bollocks’ , mango and chilli relish and books penned by the man himself.

A woman operating the stall who did not want to be named said that the business had provided work, especially for young people, and that Clarkson allowed her to take bread that would otherwise be fed to pigs to the homeless charity where she also works.

Megan Brown and Joel Reddington from Norfolk enjoyed a pint at the Diddly Squat Farm restauarant in Chadlington 

‘They have been really supportive,’ she said. ‘It is all really encouraging.’

Marketing managers Mark Lewis, 52 and Anne Jensen, 34, had come in for lunch after being on a spa break from their home in Henley on the other side of Oxfordshire.

Mark said: ‘There has to be a way to make this work. It is not harming anyone, it is very low impact and it is clearly much loved by a lot of people.’

Anne said: ‘I do understand there are local objections but it is such a beautiful spot and we both get that this is a really good idea. I hope it can survive.’

However, not everyone is a fan of the farm with some locals saying it has changed the area for the worse.

Mary Anderson, 51, said: ‘He’s turned this small road into a main road. I don’t know if things will be better now; the shop caused enough problems from people trying to sightsee.

‘Just getting into Chipping Norton has become just mental. People stand around in the road and drivers go unnecessarily fast.

‘Okay, if the infrastructure had been put in place to accommodate it – like parking and wider roads, that would not be so bad. But it’s just become such a tourist attraction.

‘Having worked on a farm for many years a long time ago, it kind of doesn’t sit very well that he’s playing a farmer and, in my opinion, taking the mickey out of the farming community.

‘Jeremy does what Jeremy wants. He makes money wherever he can, and he just seems to fly by the seat of his pants.

Anne Jensen and Mark Lewis, from Oxfordshire, visited the farm for lunch today after being on a spa break 

 ‘People tell him no, but he just finds his own way to do things. He might live in Chadlington, but he doesn’t really live here.’

One local objector, who did not want to be named, said: ‘He invited 40 of us from the village and served us seven courses cooked by an award winning chef.

‘It was all filmed for his Amazon programme and the restaurant itself lasted barely a week. It was simply for the benefit of the cameras.

‘He is just constantly pushing the rules. He is not allowed to sell anything in his shop that is not made locally but he wants to sell his merchandise so he charges £20 for a potato and gives them a t-shirt for free.

‘He put it out that he was closing as a mark of respect for the Queen’s funeral but he never opened on Monday anyway. That’s how he chases publicity.’

Jo Hooley, 60, an estate agent who lives in the nearby village of Chadlington, said: ‘The cars that arrive for his shop and restaurant make life very difficult for us. People park on the sides of the road leading to the village and buses can’t get passed.

‘What I really find sad is how he has divided the village. Half the people are with him, half against him and it is all people talk about.’

Another villager, a woman aged 46 who asked not to be named, said: ‘His supporters can make life quite unpleasant.

‘I don’t think the rules should be changed for him. There are plenty of places where he could put a restaurant if that’s what he wants to do. I think all he really wants is to stir things up and keep his name out there.’

The Diddly Squat Farm shop and restaurant was forced to close by the council who said it was pursuing an enforcement notice

Agents working on behalf of Mr Clarkson and the farm have denied any breach of planning laws and are appealing the order, describing the council’s demands as ‘excessive’ in documents sent last month.

The council hit back Thursday with a strongly-worded statement, slamming the presenter for not following its orders.

A spokesperson said: ‘West Oxfordshire District Council served an enforcement notice on the owners of Diddly Squat Farm in respect of planning breaches on the site on August 12, 2022.

‘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.

‘The business continues to operate outside the planning permissions granted and advice has been ignored. The activity has also had a significant impact on the local community.

‘The council is pursuing enforcement action to ensure that planning laws are followed on the site in the same way as they would be for any other business operating across the district and within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

‘It is the responsibility of the council to ensure that planning laws and processes are followed correctly. Over recent years the business has had several planning applications approved, where they are in line with national and local planning policy, and also some refused where they are not.

‘We work constructively and successfully with many businesses across West Oxfordshire, including farms, to help them operate within the national and local planning laws and policies that exist to protect the countryside and local communities.

‘The enforcement notice instructs the owners of the business to stop activity in breach of planning control.

‘The council has recently become aware that the owners of Diddly Squat Farm have appealed the enforcement notice, which is common practice in planning enforcement cases.’

It added an inspector will decide the appeal and the council will explain why it ‘considers the notice should be upheld and the appeal dismissed’.

The John Phillips Planning Consultancy wrote in their September 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.

Bosses added that the map of the site produced by the council was incorrect and claimed the notice period provided wasn’t long enough to carry out the work required.

The appeal reads: ‘The suggested six week period is too short and would have serious and detrimental impacts on the business and livelihoods of those employed at the site. Six months is a more reasonable timeframe.’

An enforcement notice by West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC), published on August 11, told the 62-year-old Top Gear star he had six weeks to make a number of changes to the Chadlington site, which features in his hit Amazon Prime series, Clarkson’s Farm

The agents concluded that the order ‘should be quashed in its entirety as a result’.

Papers served by the Planning Inspectorate show it has accepted Mr Clarkson’s appeal as valid and that representations must be made in coming weeks. 

It is believed Mr Clarkson thought he was able to operate the restaurant after making changes to a barn on his land using a clause which allowed the use of farm structures to be tweaked from their original purpose without council-approved planning permission.

But WODC said in August it was investigating the restaurant after councillors rejected its initial planning application in January.

One council source, who refused to comment on the local authority’s ongoing investigation, told MailOnline at the time: ‘The council’s view is that the same planning rules should apply to everybody.

Clarkson was told to cease use of any part of the land as a restaurant or cafe, and the general ‘sale or provision of food or drinks to members of the public for consumption on the land’

‘We will treat Jeremy Clarkson in the exact same way as any other resident of West Oxfordshire.’

On Clarkson’s Farm, the star works on his 1,000 acre plot of land, located between Chipping Norton and Chadlington in the idyllic Cotswolds countryside in Oxfordshire.

The former petrol-head appears to have settled for a serene farming lifestyle as part of his new hit Amazon Prime series.

But the show’s roaring success – and the opening of the popular farm shop – created chaos for villagers who complained of visitors clogging up the country roads.

Mr Clarkson’s representatives have been approached for further comment.

Source: Read Full Article