Staff transporting a drilling rig between oil exploration sites in Sussex did not know the delivery was in breach of planning conditions, a court heard today.
The evidence emerged during the trial of a fossil fuel campaigner who climbed on top of the rig when it was parked at a motorway service station.
Peter Whittick, of West Sussex, denies he hindered the rig owner, British Drilling and Freezing Ltd, from carrying out its lawful business under section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act.
His trial at Brighton Magistrates Court heard from Anthony Rowe, an engineer for British Drilling and Freezing.
Speaking by video link, Mr Rowe said he drove the escort vehicle for the rig’s journey from the Broadford Bridge site, near Billingshurst in West Sussex.
He told the court he left Broadford Bridge at about 4am on 6 September 2017 on the way to another oil site at Lidsey near Bognor Regis.
During the journey, Mr Rowe said he was told that the Lidsey site could not take the rig and the escort and lorry diverted to Pease Pottage services on the M23.
Mr Rowe said he and the driver of the rig lorry stayed overnight nearby and planned to leave at 3am-3.30am the next day to make the two-hour journey to Lidsey.
But Mr Rowe said when he returned to the services at 2.30am on 7 September 2017, Dr Whittick and anti-fracking banners were on top of the rig.
Dr Whittick, who is representing himself, asked Mr Rowe about the departure from Broadford Bridge and planned delivery to Lidsey:
“Were you aware that this was a breach of conditions?”
No, Mr Rowe replied.
Dr Whittick asked:
“Did you receive any training on the timing of arrival or departure from the oil sites?”
No Mr Rowe replied.
The court heard that a condition of the planning permissions for the Broadford Bridge and Lidsey sites restricted heavy goods vehicle deliveries and departures to after 7am.
Mr Rowe said the rig was transported in the early hours of the morning to avoid rush hour traffic. He said the timing of the departures and arrivals was agreed between British Drilling and Freezing and the site managers.
Dr Whittick argued that there was no case to answer because by breaking the planning conditions British Drilling and Freezing was not acting legally and the charge under the trades union legislation was not valid. District Judge Christopher James disagreed and the case continues.
This morning’s evidence also included testimony from the lorry driver, Norman Adcock. His statement read to the court said the protest had delayed his journey by nine hours and extended his day to 21 hours.
PC Robert Jennings, who was called to Pease Pottage services, said he four warnings to Dr Whittick to come down from the rig. He said he was satisfied that Dr Whittick had understood.
A protester removal team arrived and constructed a scaffolding tower alongside the lorry. Dr Whittick came down and was arrested at about mid-day.
Dr Whittick questioned whether PC Jennings had given him enough time for reflection between the different warnings. PC Jennings said he was satisfied that enough time had been given.
The case continues this afternoon with Dr Whittick’s defence case.