Parking restrictions near Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farm have been approved, with the leader of Oxfordshire County Council declaring herself “extremely disappointed” with the TV star.
Councillor Liz Leffman (Lib Dem, Charlbury & Wychwood) spoke in support of the county’s proposal to implement no waiting restrictions, the equivalent of double yellow lines, on the A361 and Chipping Norton Road, Chadlington.
It is the latest twist to an ongoing dispute around the high volume of traffic descending on rural areas around the farm following its appearances on Clarkson’s Farm, a popular show on Amazon.
The county’s report includes a response from West Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority that has refused permission for Mr Clarkson to extend parking provision on his field.
Matters escalated in August 2022 when an enforcement notice was served by the district authority requiring “the unlawful use as café/restaurant/tourist destination to cease, along with the unlawful parking on the site”.
Mr Clarkson appealed that and, according to the district, a hearing will be held in March. In the meantime, visitors are said to be parking on roads when the existing car park is full.
Councillor Leffman referred to talks between West Oxfordshire, the county, Mr Clarkson and his representative but claims requests have been “ignored”, prompting the county – which is responsible for highways – to act.
“There isn’t anywhere near sufficient parking,” she said. “People are parking on the very narrow, rural roads and on the main road, which is the A361, which, as you can imagine, is pretty dangerous.
“It is also damaging the verges, which are the property of the highways authority, namely ourselves, so parking restrictions have been brought forward.
“It is quite unusual in an area that is so rural, but it is necessary, not least because the bus passes down that road. It is restricting the transport for the area and causing a great deal of concern for local residents.
“I have had conversations with Mr Clarkson and his agent and suggested, as did Paul Fermer (director of highways and operations at Oxfordshire County Council), that he should be putting in an application to West Oxfordshire District Council for a proper car park, which wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent car park, it could be temporary for the life of the farm shop, but he has ignored all requests to do this which I am extremely disappointed about.
“Therefore, I think the only option we have is to put in restrictions and for us to enforce them – the enforcement is crucial.”
Councillor Leffman suggested holding off on implementation for “a couple of months” to give Mr Clarkson the chance to act.
“If we give it a bit of time and emphasise the importance of having parking off the road, that would be the ideal solution from my perspective and the perspective of my residents,” she added.
A written response from Diddly Squat Farm said the measures “would have a fairly dramatic impact on our farm shop” and recommended holding off until after the planning enforcement appeal, stating that an extension to the car park would solve the problem.
It added: “We must also consider what would happen if we ended up with parking restrictions on the road and no car park. People would still come in great numbers and would have to park somewhere. West Oxfordshire District Council has made it very plain I can’t use any of my fields, so what’s the alternative? Chadlington?”
The decision was delegated to Councillor Andrew Gant (Lib Dem, Wolvercote & Summertown), the county’s cabinet member for highway management.
He was recommended by council professionals to approve “continued working” between the county, district and Thames Valley Police to address the issues “either through a reduction in visitors by car or suitable off-carriageway provision for parking” with restrictions after that is completed.
However, Councillor Gant amended that to allow the county to proceed with restrictions when it felt appropriate.
“Everyone wants the business to succeed, everyone wants there to be a long-term solution, and I hope that will proceed as expeditiously and as consensually as possible,” he said.
“This is a measure to deal with a problem that has arisen because proper provision has not been made for the increase in car traffic generated by the business.
“Whatever the reasons for that are, it is the right thing to do. It is the responsibility of this council to safeguard the safety and amenity of people who use the highway, of bus services and to avoid damage to the verges.
“The element of timing in the recommendation allows officers to take account of discussions that are happening elsewhere and to work with me about when this scheme should be done.
“The current situation is not satisfactory, not safe, and it is the duty of this council to do something about that.”