The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clarkson’s neighbours muffle Top Gear’s roars

London, Feb. 20: The future of Top Gear, the BBC television motoring series, was in doubt yesterday because of concerns over noise and pollution created by the high-speed car tests of presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

The programme had hoped to relocate to an airfield near Clarkson’s home in Oxfordshire as part of a proposal by an independent company to create a circuit for high-performance cars.

Clarkson’s days of racing cars around tracks may be limited. The application had been fiercely opposed by residents of Enstone and nearby villages who feared that noise from Top Gear and other motoring activities would disrupt their lives. It was rejected by planners last week to applause from members of the public.

Clarkson is said to have been in favour of the move, not least because he lives in nearby Chipping Norton.

Anne Backhouse was among those who opposed the application on environmental grounds. “We should be cutting down on polluting exhaust fumes rather than increasing them,” she said.

Mike Breakell, a councillor for West Oxfordshire, said: “When it comes down to it we have got to ask ‘what does it do for the local community'’ I’m not sure it does very much other than make them cross.”

Andy Wilman, the executive producer of Top Gear, sought to play down the decision, saying: “We were interested in a move to Enstone. After seven series we wanted to give the show a face lift... But we are happy to stay where we are.”

However, inquiries by The Daily Telegraph revealed that may not be possible.

The series, which features a mix of outdoor testing and indoor discussion, is currently filmed at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, where there have also been concerns about noise.

The programme is recorded on a Wednesday and transmitted the following Sunday, with a new series due to start filming in May.

Top Gear has been granted temporary planning consent for its activities, but this expires on April 30.

Presumably because it was expecting to move to Oxfordshire, the BBC has not entered into negotiations with the local planning authority, Waverley council.

Jim Anderson, the council’s head of development control, said: “There has been no application for an extension... As that process takes about eight weeks, time is getting very tight.... there is no guarantee... permission will be granted.”

The presence of Top Gear at Dunsfold has led to several other “unwelcome” performance car activities starting up at the airfield. Following complaints, Waverley council has imposed a noise abatement notice on the site.

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