Council accuses Clarkson’s Farm of ‘misleading’ depiction of planning meeting amid viewer backlash
An Oxfordshire council has hit back at the way a planning meeting was depicted in an episode of hit Amazon show Clarkson’s Farm.
Viewers accused the authority of being “short-sighted” and “pen pushing” after the series - which follows Jeremy Clarkson’s trials and tribulations as he runs farm Diddly Squat in the Cotswolds - showed councillors refuse the former Top Gear star’s application to launch a restaurant on his land.
West Oxfordshire District Council has now issued a statement defending itself, describing the show’s depiction as “misleading”.
The council said series two of Clarkson’s Farm promoted a “narrative...that the council has a vendetta against Mr Clarkson”.
Episode five of the show, entitled ‘Council-ing’, shows Clarkson attending a council Planning Committee meeting to discuss his proposal to turn an existing building into a restaurant, which would offer food produced by a co-operative of local farmers.
“In our head, the restaurant plan made sense,” Clarkson says before the meeting. “It would help the soil, it would help local farmers and local businesses, and it would help us offset the dwindling government subsidies.”
He said farmers have been told to “diversify” to survive financial constraints on the industry, adding: “That is exactly what this proposal is. It is diversification of a farming business.”
Councillors voted overwhelmingly to refuse the plans.
Fans criticised the decision on social media, describing the committee as “short-sighted” and “a bunch of pen pushing jobsworths”, accusing councillors of having “already made up their mind”.
A petition launched online to “save Diddly Squat Farm from planning injustice” has now garnered almost 160,000 signatures.
It accuses WODC of “not supporting Diddly Squat Farm becoming a successful local business by making planning decision based on bias towards Jeremy Clarkson”.
In a statement issued to the Oxford Mail, a West Oxfordshire District Council spokesperson has responded to the criticism it faces, saying: “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.
“Jeremy Clarkson appeared to be frustrated by the council’s refusal of his proposal
“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.
“Officers and councillors have to make some difficult decisions based on national planning related laws and guidance alongside local policies. Most applications 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 and ultimately, having heard the whole case as opposed to edited highlights, the councillors voted to refuse planning permission.”
The spokesperson added: “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.
“Over recent years, Diddly Squat Farm has had many planning applications approved where they were in line with national and local planning policy and behind the scenes we have worked with the owners and planning agents of Diddly Squat Farm to try and reach a positive outcome where the business can operate within the planning laws and policies and help to support other local farmers. However, we can not force a business to work with us, and when that is the case we can only judge planning applications on what a business submits.
“The council operates in a transparent way so we were happy for the production team to attend the meeting in a way that didn’t obstruct the meeting taking place.”
Responding to the WODC comment, a Clarkson’s Farm spokesperson said: “Naturally not every element of filming makes the final edit of the programmes, however the episode covered both sides of the debate and the outcome of the meeting.”