AN AMBITIOUS project to build a replica of the Harwich ship that sailed to America in 1620 will be ready in time for the 400th anniversary celebrations.

Concerns have been raised there had been a lack of progress at the Harwich Mayflower Project, which aims to build and sail a replica of the Mayflower to the USA in 2020.

Harwich Town Council heard residents were worried about the lack of visible progress at the project’s yard in George Street.

Dr Terry Rogers said he feared the project, which has been running for six years, would not be complete in time for the celebrations.

He called on the council and the Harwich and Dovercourt Tourism Group to ensure alternative arrangements were put in place.

“I agree that if progress on the Mayflower was real and visible, it could have a major positive impact on tourism in the area,” he said.

“However, the highly visible lack of construction progress makes me wonder if the tourism group has put too much emphasis on the yet-to-beachieved success of the project.

“What will the council promote as the focus of local tourism in the event that the Mayflower project fails to become the early success which would be so welcome?”

The Mayflower Project was launched in 2010 and work started in December 2012.

By July 2014, the keel had been laid and the sternpost fitted, and later that year the first frame was finished and lifted into place.

Lynda Chase-Gardener, vice-chairman of the Mayflower Project board of trustees, said the ship would be ready on time.

“It’s a two-year build and professionally qualified engineers have confirmed it is a two-year build – so we are on track to sail in 2020,” she said.

“We expect to recommence the main structure of the build later this summer.”

She added: “One of the things that is important is that the ship will be a significant centrepiece of the Mayflower commemorations and in the lead-up to 2020. We are being supported by all the destination venues of the original voyage. The ship will set sail in 2020.”

Town councillor Ivan Henderson said celebrations would take place regardless of whether the project was completed on time.

“As a town, we will be celebrating the history Harwich has got with the ship, whether the replica is in the water by then or not,” he said.

“Yes we all have our fingers crossed – we hope and we are told the project will be delivered on time, but that’s not the only thing that Harwich has got to offer regarding the Mayflower celebrations 2020.”