A £16MILLION animal hospital which was damaged after a huge fire ripped through a neighbouring building will remain closed for at least another three weeks.

Southfield Veterinary Hospital, in Gardiners Lane South, Basildon, has remained shut since the fire back on April 18.

Despite the fire starting next door, the building was damaged by smoke and evacuated – including dozens of animals that were receiving treatment.

Initially, bosses hoped the vets would reopen inside two weeks but repairs have taken longer than expected and they have now warned it will be “at least three weeks” until it reopens.

Daniel Hogan, hospital director at Southfields Veterinary Specialists, has said repair and renovation work by experts is now under way.

Mr Hogan said: “Southfields Veterinary Specialists was affected by a fire in the building next to its site in April and the hospital has been closed since then. While the building did not catch fire and all patients and staff were safely evacuated, the site was damaged by the incident, and we need to ensure it is completely safe before it reopens.

“A thorough assessment of all parts of the hospital has taken place, and renovations by expert teams are now under way. It is a large site, so this will take a few weeks.

“We expect the building to remain closed until mid-June while renovations continue but we are working towards a phased return for our teams.

“We are continuing to work closely with our colleagues at other veterinary centres to ensure we can continue to offer excellent care for our patients.”

Following the fire, the animals were transferred to nearby vets and are continuing to be supports by other veterinary hospitals in the area.

The cause of the fire, on April 18, was found to be non-suspicious after an investigation by Essex Fire and Rescue Service.

Mr Hogan added: “The Southfields team have rearranged many appointments and are holding consultations at other locations nearby.

“I would like to thank our clients, everyone at Southfields and our colleagues at other veterinary centres for their understanding and flexibility. We are looking forward to returning to the hospital as soon as we can.”