A company making sanitising gel has strongly denied claims it has used the Covid crisis to ‘sneak a giant bomb’ onto a Redditch village’s doorstep.

And the DCS Group has moved to reassure anxious locals that the chemical storage tanks it has erected early, before getting planning approval, are ‘incredibly safe’.

Beoley Parish Council members were shocked when they received a copy of an application for retrospective permission for two 50,000-litre (11,000-gallon) tanks holding toxic and highly flammable ethanol at Ravensbank industrial estate.

Ethanol is used in making hand sanitisers with high alcohol levels to safeguard against coronavirus.

When Beoley Council were asked to comment on the application they immediately lodged a ‘vehement’ objection.

They wrote: “Obviously hiding behind the Covid epidemic, this company have put Beoley residents, and probably further afield, at extreme risk with their actions.

“This is absolutely shocking. We demand that a closure is immediately put on their manufacturing process until all the appropriate Health and Safety documentation is forwarded to us for examination and comments.

“There is, effectively, a massive bomb on our doorstep and what is being done about it?”

The council are demanding to know why the company did not apply for permission before the tanks were installed.

Council chairman Trevor Bland said: “In our view they were trying to sneak this in under the radar.

“We need to be convinced it’s safe, and they have made no attempt to produce information to give us the confidence about that.”

But the firm’s manufacturing general manager Martin Rolfe insisted: “We don’t take safety risks. Everything has been done to the highest standards.

“There is no hidden agenda here, we are not trying to sneak under the radar.

“We had to move our manufacturing very rapidly because of soaring demand.

“Safety is key to us and everything has been done to the highest standards. The tanks are aviation standard with double skins and bunds while our production is done in a fire proof room with sprinkler systems.

“We have been manufacturing safely for 15 years.”

The HSE and Bromsgrove Council have been approached for a comment

• To give some idea of scale: 100,000 litres is equivalent to about four lorry tankers full.