West Oxfordshire District Council statement on Season 2 of Clarkson’s Farm
We understand that the planning process shown in Season 2 of Clarkson’s Farm can seem obstructive and that people will be confused by the planning decisions at Diddly Squat Farm.
As with any other planning authority, we have a legal responsibility to make sure that planning laws and policies are followed correctly by everyone to manage development and protect local communities and the environment. This is regardless of who they are and we treat Diddly Squat Farm no differently. Behind the scenes we have worked with the owners and planning agents of Diddly Squat Farm over the past two years to try and reach a positive outcome where the business can operate within the planning laws and policies.
The work Diddly Squat Farm is doing to highlight the wider challenges faced by farmers is commendable and we support farm diversification to help local farmers bring in income as they have lost other funding. Farming and rural businesses are incredibly important in West Oxfordshire and we sympathise with the challenges farmers face in running their businesses, especially after the uncertainty caused by Brexit as highlighted in Clarkson’s Farm.
Officers and councillors have to make some difficult decisions based on national planning related laws, guidance, and local policies. They also have to weigh up the views of local communities and the wider impact of a proposal, both positive and negative, to reach an overall decision. Most cases have their pros and cons as was obvious with the decisions for Diddly Squat Farm in Clarkson’s Farm. Indeed the Council recognised the benefits in the proposal to local farmers and the economy but the proposals did not meet other planning requirements.
Diddly Squat Farm is in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which means it has to follow much tighter national planning laws to protect the natural environment. We encourage businesses and residents to speak to us and obtain pre-application advice before submitting a planning application. This is so that we can advise and support them in creating a proposal that meets planning requirements, including in an AONB.
As shown on the programme, officers from the council went to meet with the owners of Diddly Squat Farm to provide advice which was one of multiple conversations we had to try and support the farm.
Over recent years, Diddly Squat Farm has had many planning applications approved where they were in line with national and local planning policy. This included approving the farm shop with its current car park, approving a lambing shed and allowing the area from which farm shop produce could be sourced to be extended. The farm shop we approved can sell local produce from local farmers - which we wholly support.
To try and help solve the parking problems at Diddly Squat Farm, in a recent meeting with Mr Clarkson we discussed the possibility of Diddly Squat Farm making an application for temporary planning permission for a car park in an alternative location which we felt might have been supported by the Council.
Diddly Squat Farm operated for a large part of 2021 and 2022 outside the planning permissions granted - as seen in Clarkson’s Farm. The Council gave advice to try and solve the issues in a constructive way but unfortunately, this advice was not followed. We were left with no alternative but to enforce the breaches in planning law in the same way we believe residents would want us to deal with any unlawful development. We only ever take such action as a last resort.
We will continue to work proactively in trying to resolve the issues at Diddly Squat Farm, working with the owners and agents and our partners at Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police to protect the safety of residents and visitors and make sure planning laws are applied fairly to protect the community and environment.
If you are interested in the full details you can read all the documents on the Diddly Squat Farm planning applications on our website including the plans, comments from interested parties, professional planning views, and minutes from the planning meeting.
Statement regarding the Planning Committee meeting and decisions in Clarksons Farm Season 2
The planning meeting shown in Clarkson’s Farm ran for well over an hour but was covered in a matter of minutes in the show. This meant that a lot of discussion from the meeting was missed, including a lot of very relevant legal planning advice and discussion that informed the decision taken by councillors. The ‘dark skies’ argument that featured in the programme was a very small part of the overall discussion and was not the reason for refusal of planning permission. Ultimately, having heard the whole case as opposed to edited highlights, the cllrs voted to refuse planning permission.
Throughout series 2 of Clarkson’s Farm a lot of information was not included, or appears to have been misleading for viewers, leading to the narrative promoted by the series that the council has a vendetta against Mr Clarkson. A good example of this was the ‘refusal’ of the farm track where the show omitted the fact that Diddly Squat Farm had applied retrospectively for work that can only be applied for in advance meaning the council had no choice under law but to refuse it. Also it was suggested that West Oxfordshire District Council had put cones along the road outside the farm which was not the case.