United Petroleum attempted to block Viva Energy from constructing a $43m hydrogen refuelling station amid fears it would reduce its market share, court documents reveal.

The proposed hydrogen station, at 90 Refinery Rd, is about 1km away from an existing United Petroleum service station.

Sunnyvale Pty Ltd and Anor, which both fall under the United Petroleum group of companies, tried to block Viva’s attempt to have covenants restricting it from building on a parcel of Refinery Rd land overturned.

Supreme Court documents reveal Viva made an application to discharge or modify four restrictive covenants “burdening part of the land known as 90 Refinery Road, Corio, Victoria”.

The single dwelling covenants prevented any building, other than a house, school, church or hall, being constructed on the site.

Viva made the application so it could build the fast-charging, public hydrogen station on the land.

The United Petroleum companies opposed the application and the matter went to trial before Justice Patricia Matthews.

Economic expert Dr Luke Wainscoat, acting for Sunnyvale Pty Ltd and Anor, gave evidence that the United Petroleum Corio service station would suffer a fall in its market share and that there would be “increased competition” if Viva was allowed to build its hydrogen centre on the land.

Dr Wainscoat also said the development of Viva’s proposed service station would reduce future cash flows for the United Petroleum tenant and, therefore, its willingness to pay the maximum rent.

A property valuer, also acting for the United Petroleum companies, said the market value of the land would drop by up to $2.2m if Viva opened a service station offering hydrogen, diesel and electric vehicle charging nearby.

Lawyers acting for Viva argued its primary focus was to develop a vehicle refuelling facility using alternative fuels.

In making her decision, Justice Matthews said the matter was a “curious” case.

Justice Matthews noted the covenants had been created to preserve and protect a residential neighbourhood. But, she said the area was not residential.

Judge Matthews discharged the covenants, meaning Viva would not be restricted from building on the site.

A Viva Energy spokesman said: “Viva Energy is pleased with the court’s decision”.

“Viva Energy remains committed to delivering our new energies service station which includes hydrogen refuelling and EV charging, making Geelong a leader in the reduction of emissions in the heavy vehicle sector.”

Extracted in full from: United Petroleum fights Viva over $43m service station plans | Geelong Advertiser