A LONG awaited project to rebuild a fire-ravaged shopping parade has finally begun.

The Triangle shops, in High Road, Langdon Hills, are set to rise from the ashes, 18 months after they were destroyed in a huge blaze.

Workers from London-based Diamond Build, which was handed the £1.8million contract, arrived at the site yesterday, three months later than originally expected.

The first phase of the rebuild project, which is expected to take ten months, will include clearing the site, installing hoardings and carrying out tree protection measures.

Work to lay foundations and the installation of external brickwork is set to begin by the end of the month.

The new-look complex is expected to be bigger and better than before, with six shops replacing the original four.

Five flats will be built above the parade, and an extra six car parking spaces will be created – bringing the total to 25. Stephen Hillier, Tory councillor for Langdon Hills, said: “I’m very pleased work has started at long last, because its been a long time without the shops.

“Had we rebuilt on the original footprint we could have started a lot sooner, but we wanted a much better offering than what was there before.

We’re going to have more shops, more variety and more security, because of the flats.”

Four shops – McColl’s newsagents, Hong Kong House Chinese, Elizabeth Louise hair and beauty salon and the chip shop – were reduced to rubble in January 2013 They have all signed up to return to the complex, and are expected to open their doors at the end of March. The flats are scheduled to be finished by May.

The rebuild is being funded by an insurance payout, and the Tory administration has borrowed £1.1million.

An extra £285,000 was ploughed into the project from Basildon Council’s capital budget to secure Diamond Build, after previous attempts to find a developer failed.

Stuart Sullivan, councillor responsible for resources, added: “It’s good news for the people of Langdon Hills that activity has started on site.

“We are providing a development that includes more shops, more parking, better design and, with homes above, improved security. The residents will also have their own designated parking.”