AN existing fuel retailer warned the South Gippsland Shire Council last week that there is the potential for a major “incident” to occur, at the intersection of Shingler Street and the South Gippsland Highway, if it allows a petrol station to be built there.
John Schelling, Sales Manager for Evans Petroleum, speaking at a briefing session before Wednesday’s ordinary council meeting, said that while competition was healthy, the location of the proposed service station, adjacent to a residential area, was not.
“While it may seem that we as a company have a vested interest in opposing the development can I point out that competition is healthy in business and another service station in the Leongatha area would prove an advantage from local people’s perspective and a plus for the health of the town’s retail offer, but not where this is prposed,” he said.
“Whether the development meets the zoning for the land we believe is unimportant. It is the potential of what the development could bring to the land users that surround it.
“Much the same as the Safeway proposal to build a service station on the current cinema site a few years ago caused great anxiety in the local community, we believe that this proposal also should cause people to be concerned.
“Fuel is a volatile product and if handled incorrectly can be an enormous hazard to the environment and the people who inhabit the planet we live on. To build a service station bordered by residential properties, on a major intersection has the potential to cause an incident whether you place restrictions on the site or not.
“A number of the dwellers that live close by the site are elderly and therefore not game to stand up against this development. We need to ensure that as a community we protect their privacy and offer a safe haven for them to live in.”
Mr Schelling claimed there was the potential for an accident due to confusion over vehicles indicating left off the highway, going either up Shingler Street or into the service station.
And he said the problem of having trucks waiting to turn right off the highway into Shingler Street or the service station, just as other vehicles were slowing down out of the 100km/h zone, was also an unacceptable risk.
“Best practice would involve tankers going up into the town and coming back on the left side to make their deliveries but this simply won’t happen in practice.”
He said that while the shire might place restrictions on the hours that deliveries could be made, limiting them to between 7am and 7pm, it would be impossible to control.
“We know from experience from having sites in residential areas that no matter how many controls you have in place some people will test the system. To restrict deliveries to the hours of 7am to 7pm is a terrific idea until slow traffic or an accident holds up the transport vehicle and then it has to make the delivery after hours. That is the nature of our road system nowadays. It isn’t perfect and once a business is up and running it is hard to complain, let alone find someone to listen.”
He said Evans would not build on the site and the potential for odours, variable lighting, turning tightness, environmental hazard and positioning in a residential area made it totally inappropriate.
The applicant also attended the presentation session and claimed all these issues could be overcome with landscape buffers, setbacks and conditions of operation.
But he did conceded that the developers would be prepared to provide shutters, double glazing and additional vegetation screening for neighbours immediately opposite the entrance/exit to the service station.
On a vote of 8:1, with only Cr Maxine Kiel against, council voted to grant permission for the United petrol station to be established on the site.