A PICK-your-own fruit farm that built a cafe without planning permission say it has reached a “good solution” after striking a deal to keep it open.
Rectory Farm was finally allowed keep its cafe after moving it from a temporary marquee to an extension on the farm building, in Stanton St John.
But South Oxfordshire District Council said the farm was not allowed to keep its delicatessen, because the authority said it threatened the viability of a nearby village shop.
The farm’s owner, Richard Stanley, said he argued the cafe was needed to make the business profitable.
He said: “We did not see there as being any future in just having the pick-your-own on its own. Customers would not come out and everything would go down hill.
“But having the cafe makes the pick-your-own more viable because it makes it more attractive to come here.
“It seems a pretty good solution because we have managed to keep going and we will see how it goes this year.”
The district council granted planning permission for the existing farm shop and pick your own fruit enterprise in 2006.
But the council resisted attempts for the farm building to be used as a delicatessen, which it claimed was not related to farm activites.
It also raised concerns about the farm’s cafe and delicatessan because they would impact on the Green Belt.
Mr Stanley was told children’s activities and picnic benches were allowed at the site but seating at the cafe and delicatessen must go.
The farmer added: “When it got down to public pressure people said it was stupid so we then came to an agreement.”
But the solution with the cafe was reached when pressure mounted on the authority to relent after customers wrote to the area’s MP John Howell.
Henley MP Mr Howell said: “There were a number of issues which needed to be played off against each other.
“There’s the preservation of the Green Belt, which is vitally important, what the farm wanted to do and what was practical.
“I hope that a sensible solution has been reached that accomodates the views of everyone.”
He said about 25 members of the public had contacted him directly to lobby for a solution.
A district council spokesman said the cafe’s impact on the Green Belt, the viability of village shops and the farm’s interests were considered before planning permission was granted.
The spokesman said: “The council doesn’t object to the café in principle. However, we maintain that the café should be part of the farm shop building so it does not impact on the Green Belt or the local village shop.
“The council is supportive of any reasonable proposal aimed at maintaining the viability of the farm as its status as a large and significant agricultural enterprise, as well as it being a legitimate planning objective.”