A disabled campaigner whose blue badge car was removed yesterday from outside an exploration site says he will stay at a council vehicle pound until it is released.
Richard Wise said he paid East Riding of Yorkshire Council £300 this morning for the release of the vehicle, which was towed away by enforcement officers during the eviction of a monitoring camp (DrillOrDrop report). But he said officials would not tell him where the car was being held.
He said he later tracked down it down to a council yard in the village of Skirlaugh but the car was clamped and the keys were missing.
No one at the yard was able to release the vehicle and the caretaker went home at about 6.15pm, leaving the gates open, he said.
Mr Wise, who is registered disabled because of osteoporosis and emphysema, has vowed to stay at the pound until the vehicle and four caravans, also seized in the eviction, were released.
Since January, Mr Wise and a group of environmental campaigners have been monitoring of activities at the Rathlin Energy oil and gas site at West Newton, north of Hull.
They established a verge-side station to monitor drilling of a second well. They argued that official regulators did not have the resources to keep a check on the site.
During well testing of the first well at West Newton, observers raised concerns about operations which resulted in the Environment Agency recording at least 14 breaches of the site’s environmental permit.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council threatened the eviction of the monitoring station last week and the group moved to another road overlooking the drilling site. The eviction of the new location went ahead yesterday. The council cited emergency powers under section 149(2) of the Highways Act 1980.
The monitoring group said today the eviction was illegal and it was seeking advice to take action against the council.
Citizens Advice said enforcement officers should not clamp or remove cars displaying valid Blue Badges. Nor, the organisation said, should caravans be removed if they are a home.
Speaking to DrillOrDrop this evening, Mr Wise said:
“I told the police they could not take my car. It’s like they’ve taken my legs. I can’t walk far without getting breathless. They also took my home because they seized the caravan I was living in.”
Mr Wise was arrested during the eviction on suspicion of breach of the peace and obstructing police. He was later re-arrested on suspicion of affray and possession of an offensive weapon.
Today, Humberside Police dropped all the matters against Mr Wise, saying there was not sufficient evidence to proceed.
Mr Wise said he had a receipt for the payment to the council to retrieve his car.
“I told them at the yard that I would stay here in protest. I am not leaving until they release my car. I’ve got my sleeping bag and will stay as long as it takes.”
Other members of the monitoring group had been told they could retrieve their caravans for the payment of £300 by 20 March.
A spokesperson for the West Newton Monitoring and Information Station said:
“The council have been continually hostile towards us. We believe we are being discriminated against because of our beliefs as environmentalists. This breaks the law. Under the Equality Act 2010, beliefs are one of the Protected Characteristics. Climate change has been proven in case law to be a belief under the Act.”
DrillOrDrop asked East Riding of Yorkshire Council to respond to comments by the group and Mr Wise.
A spokesperson for the council said:
“On Monday (25 February), the council took appropriate action to remove all caravans, tents, wooden huts and other items from an encampment at Fosham Road – a narrow, unclassified road with no road markings that is used regularly by farm machinery and heavy goods vehicles.
“Cars and caravans parked on the sides of narrow roads cause obstructions and visibility issues for drivers and therefore increase the danger of accidents.
“It was because of these serious road safety concerns and the priority that the council places on the safety of road users together with the safety of individuals at the encampment that action was taken using the emergency procedure contained in section 149(2) of the Highways Act 1980.
“As part of the operation, a car was removed and the council has since returned this to the owner.
“The council first served notice on 15 January, under sections 143 and 149 of the Highways Act 1980, requesting the removal of all caravans, tents, wooden huts and other items from the roadside at Pipers Lane as soon as possible, but no later than 20 February.
“Last week, however, the vehicles, caravans and other items were moved to the even narrower stretch of nearby Fosham Road, thereby posing an even greater danger to the people themselves and to other road users.
“Under the provisions of section 149(2) (a) of the Highways Act 1980 together with section 41(11) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, the council is entitled to recover the reasonable expense of removal and storage of the items.
“The council has been clear throughout that it would seek to recover costs and the release fee charged is, at the discretion of the council, only a contribution that is considered to be reasonable and is not the full cost attributable to each item.”
Updated 27 February 2019 with council statement