BELEAGUERED residents who have been priced out of essential safety works on a fire-plagued estate may be offered a reprieve.

Last month, the Echo revealed hundreds of residents who own their properties on the Felmores estate, in Pitsea, have been given hefty bills for cement cladding to replace timber frames on the houses.

The work was recommended by Essex Fire Service after a blaze in Bockingham Green ripped through seven houses, leading to questions about whether the homes were safe.

But housing bosses met local councillors for talks to resolve the problem, and now the authority is looking at offering residents other safety measures.

This could include installing horizontal beams in homes to prevent the spread of fire, which is another of the fire service’s recommendations.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour councillor for Pitsea North West, met housing officials to discuss a solution to the issue.

He said: “I don’t know how Basildon Council expected private homeowners to pay just under £30,000 for the work, but hopefully we can install some of the recommendations.

“We’re going to look at this in more detail and hopefully offer a cheaper option for private homeowners on the estate.”

Mr Callaghan also claims there is cash available to re-surface all 13 of the estate’s car parks. This would cost about £100,000 for each car park, he claims.

The beams should be installed on the ceiling of each floor of each property, fire bosses argue.

The cladding work, which will cost the council about £6million, began in October, after months of delays.

But private homeowners, saddled with a huge bill for the work, have hit out at the latest proposals.

Paul Dongworth, 62, of Winstree, faced a bill of £192 a month. He said: “It’s been a complete fiasco. If the council is looking at different measures, that shows it doesn’t have a clue.

“It should just install fire alarms in each home and that would have saved lots of money.”