THE devastating blaze at Reids comes just three weeks after plans were given the green light to convert the building into flats, sparking fears the project will now “be impossible”.

Basildon Council gave the go-ahead to developer the Brodie Group to transform the building into 32 apartments last month but a key part of the decision was agreeing that parts of the historic building are protected.

During yesterday’s blaze, which saw six fire crews tackle the fire, a historic Grade II listed adjoined building was severely damaged.

Basildon Tory cabinet member for housing, Andrew Schrader, fears the plans may now be in doubt and the developer could be forced to apply for planning permission to demolish the burnt-out remains.

Plans to convert the Reids building were initially thrown out in 2022 due to concerns on impact to the historic building and an adjoined nursery.

Mr Schrader said: “Planning permission for the flats was conditionally approved, despite my own personal objections.

“The sadness is that a lot of the old building attached to Reids, that we spent so much time handwringing about in planning meetings, has been destroyed.

“We spent hours deliberating the impact the flat conversion plans would have on the building and now it has entirely gone up in smoke which is extremely depressing.

“We will see what will happen with the planning situation, there is an approved plan predicated on adapting the existing building and extending it, which would be impossible now.

“It is still early days and too early to call what will happen but if the damage is as bad as it looks then it will have to go back to planning to apply for demolition of the burnt-out structure.”

The bar, which has more than 30 years history as a venue and previously operation as Quilters and then the Ivory Rooms, has been empty for several years. Mr Schrader added: “The fact is, everyone knows Reids is an empty, vacant building that is a magnet for potential arsonists and the truth will come out in the investigation.

“Anything could have happened in it but we must avoid wild speculation as the details will inevitably see the light.”