OLD LEIGH’S community has been left devastated by the fire which engulfed The Fisherman’s Co-op yesterday morning.

Residents and officials have paid tribute to the building, which served Old Leigh for more than 100 years, reflecting on the impact which it has had over its time in the area.

Councillor Peter Wexham, from the Leigh Ward, said: “It’s devastating news, I was in utter shock to find that another important part of Leigh’s history is just gone.

“This is a very old building which was at the heart of our area, dating all the way back to about 1910.

“Unfortunately due to its age, the structure of the building is made out of old timber frames, which can easily set alight and burn. This could’ve been what caused the fire to spread.

“Although we’ve made good use of the building, I wasn’t expecting to lose it so soon.

“The fishermen have enough trouble as it is with the market, without this being thrown into the mix.

“Now it’s down to conservation as to whether it will be rebuilt as it was or whether it will be used as something different.”

Leigh Town councillor Andrew Wilkins, added: “This is a massive loss to the Old Leigh community.

“Fingers crossed the Fishermen’s Co-op rises from this low point they’re currently in to become part of the Old Leigh community once more.

“This is one we will all feel as residents of the town.”

Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, has thanked emergency services for their quick response to the blaze.

He said: “Like many, I’m horrified to learn about this tragic disaster. The Fisherman’s Co-op has been there for such a long time.

“I’m extremely thankful to our local fire service for what they have done to make the premises safe, and for acting swiftly.

“Now we shall have wait to see the outcome of the investigation.

“My thoughts are with the owners at this horrible time.”