BUILDING 61 affordable homes next to a chemical plant in Brierley Hill would be like playing "Russian roulette with the safety of others" – a worried resident fears.

Plans for a mixture of one-bedroom apartments and two and three-bed houses on the former Bodykraft repair centre in Canal Street have been met with dismay due to the close proximity to Hammond Chemicals, a hazardous industrial solvent storage, processing, packing and distribution business.

A Brierley Hill resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "It beggars belief that someone would even consider putting housing next door to a site where large volumes of highly flammable solvents are stored and mixed.

"This proposed development is a social housing scheme aimed at those on low income who may be desperate for a home and would have little or no choice but to accept one there.

"So, is it right to build such houses for them in a potentially dangerous location that no sensible private buyer would touch with a barge pole?"

The resident said an explosion involving 200-litre drums of toxic chemicals at Oldbury-based Alcohols Ltd, which ripped through the factory and resulted in one man being seriously injured and damage to neighbouring houses and cars, should serve as a warning.

"As far as I know, Hammond Chemicals have an excellent safety record and an accident may never happen – but it might – as proven in Oldbury.

"I think it wrong to play Russian roulette with the safety of others."

Shaun Hammond, director of the firm, confirmed that in 49 years of operation there had been no incidents, but added: "There wasn't at Alcohols until 2012."

He said in addition to the risk to residents the development would have a serious impact on the future of his business.

Mr Hammond said: "Any restrictions on our current or future growth could jeopardise the economic viability of a business employing 30 local people.

"This may lead to scale-down of operations near to the development boundary."

Mr Hammond added: "The noise generated by our activity is normal and acceptable for an industrial location – but unlikely to be acceptable to residential occupiers within close proximity."

He said the developer's solution to create a three-storey apartment block as an acoustic screen, "throws caution to the wind" and would just move residents closer to the noise sources and hazardous substances.

Ward councillor Christine Perks said: "With 61 houses, there is potentially going to be quite a lot of people and children living there. That's a lot of people to be so close to such a danger, especially if there was an accident of any sort.

"It is predominantly industrial around there, we all want houses and I know we have got a chronic housing shortage in Dudley but it needs to fit in the area."

A spokesman for Westleigh Partnerships, who have submitted the plan to Dudley Council in partnership with Accord Group, said: “We have been working closely with the relevant authorities in order to prepare a planning application for our proposed Canal Street development in Brierley Hill and have taken the necessary steps to help mitigate any concerns surrounding the complexities of the site.

“As specialists in the redevelopment of brownfield sites, which often includes addressing adjacent commercial uses, health and safety is always our number one priority and we will continue to collaborate fully with the local authority during the planning consultation process on this site.”