United against Churchill eyesore

Churchill community members want the abandoned United Petroleum servo to be knocked-down. photograph michelle slater

Churchill community members want the abandoned United Petroleum servo to be knocked-down. photograph michelle slater

Member for Morwell Russell Northe has renewed his campaign to eradicate a long-standing Churchill eyesore that has sparked community anger for the past decade.

About 15 Churchill community members met to discuss the abandoned United Petroleum service station on the corner of Monash and Acacia ways, in a meeting called by Member for Morwell Russell Northe on Friday.

The United-owned site has been abandoned for more than 10 years and has become dilapidated, vandalised and a potential fire hazard.

However, as the property is privately-owned, both the state government and Latrobe City council are hamstrung to intervene.

Neighbouring resident Tom Sterrick said the old servo gave Churchill a bad image as people drove into town from the north.

"Having a dump like this on the town entry will have an effect on property values. I live two doors up and I have to see this every morning," he said.

"We don't know what's inside it - it will be a fire hazard as well."

Mr Northe described the building as "disgusting" and said he was sick of the silence from United despite repeated attempts to get detailed answers about the company's intentions for the site.

He said he had spoken with a United asset manager who gave vague answers about possibly selling-off the property or knocking the building down.

"We need to know when or how they will sell or demolish the property - we can't be left in the dark," Mr Northe said.

"It's come to the point where we need to stand up as a community and say this is not good enough."

The local MP gathered about 2000 signatures on a community petition earlier this year, and forwarded on to United, but with no response.

"There should not be any loopholes for a private company to leave it so shabby in the community, I think there should be laws to force a company into demolishing dilapidated buildings," Mr Northe said.

Latrobe City Council chief executive Gary Van Driel said the site was on council's dilapidated buildings register and a differential rating scheme was applied 12 months ago.

"Neither council nor the court has sufficient authority to compel the owner of any land to undertake any works or actions to improve the condition of the property," Mr Van Driel said.

He said council officers had been conducting monthly inspections and issuing compliance notices around unsightly land, long grass and the state of the security fencing.

The Express has contacted United Petroleum for comment. 

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