United we don’t stand

Published in The Warrandyte Diary, October 2013

Warrandyte Community Association and Yarra St residents expect United Petroleum to face strict consequences after allegedly breaching council laws when it carried out construction work and sold petrol at its Yarra St site without a permit in the last week of September.

News has also emerged that another application for a service station further down Yarra St, near the roundabout at Harris Gully Rd, was formally submitted around the same time of the month that United chose to carry out works and start serving petrol to customers.

Yarra St resident Deirdre Smart first overheard construction work being carried out at night-time on Thursday September 26. Over the next couple of days, residents noticed pumps and a sign being installed at the 44-46 Yarra St site despite an alleged warning from Council to cease operations.

Deirdre believes the works were a danger to the community, carried out in a “dodgy” manner.

Around noon on Friday, a truck arrived at the site to put petrol in the ground, halting traffic flowing both ways along Yarra St and almost causing an accident, according to residents who were at the scene.

“There’s a blind corner right outside service station with double lines and there’s just no other way to get in there. A car came around the bend and nearly ran right into the tanker and had to go onto Stiggants Reserve to avoid a collision,” Deirdre said.

“There are other places in Warrandyte that are more appropriate for a petrol station.”

By the Saturday afternoon the station began selling petrol to customers.

IMG_6793Customers raised concerns about the conditions in which a service station attendant was serving people outside the site’s offices with the cash register placed on top of a wheelie bin. Customer receipts also contained the address of a nearby resident.

“The point is if you’ve got the cash register on a wheelie bin not far from where cars are coming through you can be knocked down,” Merilyn Evans from the Warrandyte Community Association said.

“Then there’s a possible fire hazard if petrol spills and we don’t actually know what provisions are in place, which is concerning given Warrandyte is a high fire risk area.”

It is believed a council representative halted the unauthorised works and sale of fuel on the following Monday morning.

WCA committee member and former Manningham councillor David Ellis told the Diary he believes United has breached council laws and should be met with “the firmest possible response from Council: signs removed, pumps out – no ifs or buts.”

The Diary understands a planning permit for United’s petrol station, convenience store and café at the site was first lodged in early 2012 and has been on hold as negotiations take place between the major national retailer and VicRoads.

Mr Ellis suspected that by selling petrol over the two days United may have been trying to evoke the Existing Use Rights Act, which states if the location is in continual use as a petrol station then that could act as a permit.

However, before the petrol was sold without a permit last month, it is believed fuel hadn’t been sold at the site since 2005. Clause 63.06 of the Planning Scheme provides that a use expires if it has stopped for a continuous period of more than two years.

“The works undertaken by United would appear not only to pre-empt Council’s authority but to do so in order to steal a march on a potential competitor,” Mr Ellis said.

At the time the Diary went to print, Manningham council was still investigating the incident and United Petroleum was unable to provide a spokesperson in time to answer questions. The Diary hopes to have a full statement from United Petroleum and Manningham council in the next edition of the Diary.

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Brianna Piazza

Journalist and travel writer.


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