Jeremy Clarkson was jubilant when he found a “lovely little loophole” which allowed him to open a restaurant on his Oxfordshire estate despite being refused planning permission.
The Diddly Squat eatery in Chadlington opened in July, defying what the former Top Gear star called the local “red pants” brigade.
But the bold move could still be stopped by bureaucracy.
West Oxfordshire District Council, which rejected Clarkson’s planning application in January, has confirmed it is investigating the matter.
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 investigated the operation to ensure it complies with local and national planning laws and guidelines, as well as licensing and food hygiene regulations. We cannot 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 subsequent trials and tribulations were documented on an Amazon Prime TV 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 with a kitchen, “serving 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 operation or its rural location and would have a “visually intrusive and detrimental impact” on the countryside.
At the time, Clarkson labeled it a “very bad day for farming”.
He later claimed that villagers in “red pants” were influencing councils and called for an overhaul of planning rules.
He said the government could help farmers by allowing them to change larger buildings “of, say, 500 sq m” without having to go to local planners.
“I think farmers as I understand it – and I’m a trainee farmer, let’s make no mistake about it – are allowed to alter buildings that are less than 150 square meters, 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 the planning regulations and had found a “lovely little loophole” which allowed them to open a restaurant, not on the original site, but in a lamb shed in a nearby field.
It seats seven tables of four outside and costs £49 per head for a steak menu, excluding drinks and service.
Clarkson told The Sun: “We are unable to open the restaurant where we wanted to put it and where it makes sense to have it.
“But there’s another barn in one of our fields that met different criteria and we’ve just told the council we’re opening a restaurant there. You don’t need to ask permission.
“It’s so satisfying to be thwarted every time by the council and then find a loophole.”
Permitted development rights under the Town and Country Planning Act allow landowners to circumvent normal provisions if certain criteria are met.
One, known as Class R, allows an agricultural building used as a farm shop to be developed for commercial use without permission as long as it does not exceed 150 sq m and was in agricultural use in July 2012.
Clarkson declined to comment.