Jeremy Clarkson was jubilant when he found a “delightful little loophole” that allowed him to open a restaurant on his Oxfordshire farm despite being denied planning permission.
The Diddly Squat eatery in Chadlington opened in July, in defiance of what the former Top Gear star branded the local “red trouser” brigade.
But the audacious move may yet be scuppered by red tape.
West Oxfordshire District Council, which rejected Clarkson’s planning application in January, has confirmed it is investigating.
A spokesman said: “The council was made aware of the restaurant opening at Diddly Squat Farm.
“As part of our standard operating procedure we have been looking into the operation to ensure it is compliant with local and national planning law and policies, as well as licensing and food hygiene regulations. We can not comment on any ongoing investigations.”
Clarkson, 62, bought the farm in 2008. It was run by a villager until he retired in 2019 and the broadcaster decided to see if he could run it himself.
His ensuing trials and tribulations were documented on an Amazon Prime television series called Clarkson’s Farm, broadcast in June 2021, which proved so popular that a second series was commissioned.
In September, Clarkson applied to convert a building partly used as a farm shop into a 50-cover restaurant featuring a kitchen, “servery area and an internal seating area”.
It was rejected in January after the council declared it would not be sustainable or compatible with the existing farming business or its countryside location and would have a “visually intrusive and harmful impact” on the rural area.
At the time, Clarkson branded it a “very bad day for farming”.
He later claimed that villagers in “red trousers” were influencing councils and called for an overhaul of planning rules.
He said the Government could help farmers by allowing them to alter larger buildings “of, say 500sqm” without the need to go to local planners.
“I think farmers as I understand it - and I am a trainee farmer let’s make no mistake about that - are allowed to change buildings that are smaller than 150 square metres, which is very, very small,” he told TalkTV.
Two months later, he revealed that “everyone at Diddly Squat” had spent months getting to grips with planning regulations and had found a “delightful little loophole” that allowed them to open a restaurant, not on the original site but in a lambing shed in a nearby field.
I’m thrilled to announce that you now have a chance to try the amazing food we grow and rear on my farm at the brand new (but quite rustic) Diddly Squat Restaurant. You can’t just turn up I’m afraid, but you can make a booking by following the link https://t.co/xZOWAjqkxq
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) July 8, 2022
It seats seven tables of four outside and charges £49 a head for a menu of beef sharing dishes, excluding drinks and service.
Clarkson told The Sun: “We aren’t able to open the restaurant where we wanted to put it and where it’s sensible to have it.
“But there is another barn in one of our fields that met various different criteria and we just told the council we were opening a restaurant there. You don’t need to ask permission.
“It’s so satisfying to be thwarted at every turn by the council and then find a loophole.”
Permitted development rights under town and country planning law allow landowners to bypass normal regulations if certain criteria are met.
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 150sqm and was in agricultural use in July 2012.
Clarkson declined to comment.