Legal

Protester who climbed on top of a rig lorry tells court the delivery breached planning conditions

170907 Pease Pottage UKOG Rig Eddie Mitchell3

The protest at Pease Pottage Services on 7 September 2017. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

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.

DrillOrDrop report on the afternoon hearing

21 replies »

  1. Not bad going for a 54yr old, but maybe instead of climbing up rigs he should get ready for retirement. I cannot find anything supporting he is a Dr though, what was his PhD in?

  2. Certainly not anything connected to geography!
    Not so much he protests too much, rather that he protests hundreds of miles from what his banner is focused upon.

  3. Ageism, nice! I’m 52 years young and find your comment a little insulting. I’m more active and productive now in my fifties than any other decade of my life. But perhaps you think once you’re in your 50s that the pipe and slippers and evenings spent watching Last of the Summer Wine whilst sipping cocoa are in order. As for the PhD, he did indeed earn one and unless he’s offering to perform brain surgery on you, what the doctorate is in is of little or no relevance in this instance even if it is of interest to you. Good on Dr Whittick for drawing attention to the oil and gas industry’s blatant disregard for the regulations and operating permits surrounding the license to operate when he’s totally over the hill and he should know his place and stay home with a tartan blanket over his knees whilst a carer spoons pureed mince and carrot into his dribbling mouth. 😉

  4. Anyone who believes that Fracking will not be used in the Weald is a fool , the fact that companies have avoided using the F word is because they know how it will be received . The Weald is tight oil and anyone with half a brain knows what that means. At least Dr Whittick gets off his backside and does something he believes in while those who invest in this industry spend hours online squabbling with each other . Full respect to the man .

    • Ahh I see you’re going to be a regular commentator. I’ll remember you as Jono The Joker after reading your content.

  5. Afternoon Martin. Until the current UK government unilaterally changed its own definition of fracking in order to accommodate what would have previously been automatically labelled as fracking, the currently applied subtle distinctions surrounding precise water pressures and volumes would not have had any bearing on the description. Fracking was fracking. The government wished to encourage onshore oil and gas exploration, and all of a sudden fracking wasn’t fracking unless certain water pressures and water volumes were exceeded. Meanwhile, elsewhere, fracking remains fracking. So the dear Doctor’s banner ain’t so far wide of the mark, is it? Prior to commencing drilling UKOG commissioned a feasibility study with regard to the viability of the Broadford Bridge site from the world-renowned company of Ernst & Young. They clearly stated that it was highly unlikely that the extraction of tight oil deposits from the Broadford Bridge site would prove at all viable commercially unless some form of stimulation were deployed to loosen it. Formerly, as far as I understand things, the degree of stimulation required would have been automatically described as fracking. What the Doctor has earnt his PhD in would seem to me to have little relevance to this discussion. Either of you two guys boast a PhD?
    Very best wishes,
    Jonathan B.Mus (Hons).

  6. One would expect that before a driver sets off on his destination he would check that what he is doing is correct?
    How can an act by British Drilling and freezing not be brought to task, but the act by Dr Whittick to climb aboard the vehicle to prevent further breach , be withheld and brought to court?
    If a party ( British Drilling and freezing ) is acting out of hours unaware, then there is surely a need for tighter control of the traffic planning management.
    The charge brought against Dr Whittick can surely not stand up in a court of law,.
    The ‘disruptive ‘behavior was to stop British drilling and freezing from carrying out their work at that time , as this was against the traffic management planning ..In a democratic country we cannot charge a man for trying to prevent a company from acting out of agreed hours …against what was agreed in the TMP, which in effect they should not have been doing anyway…

  7. There is no fracking in the Weald. You can fabricate there is, and speculate there could be but at the moment it is a weak attempt at trying to excite the easily excited, but no one else is being fooled.
    When there is little of substance to protest about it may be better to keep mum, as some will check the facts and find they are separate to what is being claimed, and will then immunise themselves against any future excitement.

  8. Whilst I don’t have a PhD I do have an MBA which of course you antis are probably also against as you’re anti business in general. Three of my family members are surgeons working hard in the NHS and I do rather enjoy self diagnoses so I would imagine had I chosen medicine as a career path I’d have a proper PhD.
    I imagine most of you worked in the public sector in relatively mundane jobs and forgot how to think for yourselves. It is worrying there are more than 10 of you, I was hoping it was Hobbit creating fake accounts but nope it appears not.
    Antis do have a very large voice on left websites such as this but you’re going to feel bit down in the dumps when fracking exploration kicks off. I’ve been led to believe the TE site is imminent.

  9. It was perhaps unreasonable to expect the driver to have to remain with their vehicle for 21 hours. A relief driver should have been provided at a reasonable time. The original driver should have been relieved of their duties on arrival of the relief driver. This does not reflect well on the employer.

  10. Waffle-I can understand you not bothering to read some of Ruth’s past articles but try reading what she has posted above on this subject, and the driver.
    This does not reflect well on the poster.

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