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Councils must “cut farmers some slack” to help them survive, Jeremy Clarkson has said in the wake of his planning application defeat.

Clarkson, who hopes to build a 60-seat cafe in an existing building at his Oxfordshire estate, said it is “nearly impossible to make money from farming”, leaving landowners needing to “diversify” to stay afloat.

Calling his own situation an “unholy mess” that has seen him “living in the murky, grey area of legal loopholes and cunning wheezes”, he urged local councils to consider the “thousands of struggling people” who need to change their unused buildings into something profitable.

Writing in his Sunday Times magazine column, Clarkson called the West Oxfordshire District Council meeting in early January “The day I lost to the nimbys”.

Jeremy Clarkson at his Diddly Squat farm shop in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire Jeremy Clarkson at his Diddly Squat farm shop in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire Credit: Tom Wren / SWNS

As owner of the Diddly Squat farm in Chipping Norton, he has become something of an unexpected champion of rural life after branching out from his career as a television broadcaster and motoring enthusiast.

He has recently been refused permission to build a new 70-space car park and 60-seat cafe on the farm site, after 53 objections were received by the council, along with 12 letters of support.

He described changing the building  from an “unused lambing barn into a small, wood ‘n’ sawdust café that would sell good food that had been grown and reared locally”, saying he had begun work on the amenities before the planning committee ruling.

Councillors at the meeting of West Oxfordshire District Council supported the planners’ recommendation to refuse permission on the grounds the restaurant would be “out of keeping” with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Difficult to make money from farming

He wrote: “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.”

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