PRIVATE high rise flats will be inspected over fears exterior cladding caused an horrific fire in a West London tower block to spread.

The devastating blaze in the Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington, has led to a safety review of council and independent flats across the Southend borough.

They include Essex House, in Southchurch Avenue. The former Lloyds building was refurbished in 1992, with the project involving replacing old cladding which made the building drafty. Asbestos was also removed from interior panels.

The block was later bought by Weston Homes, which converted the office into homes.

The company told the Echo it is confident the block is safe - but has vowed to inspect the structure after receiving a number of calls from worried residents.

A spokesman said: “Following the terrible events at Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington, Weston Homes wishes to reassure residents of the stringent fire safety practices and installed systems within Essex House, Southchurch Avenue, Southend.

“Weston Homes redeveloped the building, completing works in July of 2016, which included various fire safety measures required by the law and recommended by expert fire safety consultants Fds Consult.”

The spokesman added: “The changes made to the building were numerous, including but not limited to fully compartmentalising the building to contain fires and installing both horizontal and vertical fire barriers between the buildings retained façade and its structure.

“Internally, each apartment has been fitted with both a self-contained detection unit and sprinkler system. Within the common areas and stairwells, Weston Homes has installed a mechanical smoke ventilation system , utilising both ventilation shafts and a large fan on the roof of the building to quickly clear all corridors and stairwells of smoke in the event of a fire, easing escape for residents and ingress for fire fighters.

“As a duty of care, Weston Homes will be carrying out a review of all our high-rise buildings.”

Office blocks in Victoria Avenue which are currently being converted to flats by a number of developers will now be reviewed by Southend Council. These include the Heath and Carby House blocks.

Under current planning regulations, developers do not need planning permission to convert office blocks into homes provided the exterior is not changed. However, the council said a review of materials used in the conversions would now be carried out.

Mark Flewitt, councillor responsible for housing and planning and sustainability, said: “Our priority in terms of building control is to ensure that occupants of buildings are safe. In light of the fire at Grenfell Tower, the building control team is re-examining the position on a number of buildings and will be keeping discussions open with developers. If, as a result of this reassurance exercise, there is any concern about materials, we will act accordingly.”

When the Echo went to print, the official death toll stood at 30 - although it is feared that number will rise significantly.