A NEW visitor centre and museum at the site of the ambitious Mayflower project is nearing completion.

The £55,000 centre, in George Street, Harwich, will give visitors a view over the shipyard, as well as a wealth of information.

Built using only local workers and carpenters, bosses with the project have now applied for planning permission for the centre.

They hope to hold an official opening by the end of August.

Lynda Chase-Gardener, vice-chairman of the project’s board of trustees, said: “We are very proud of it and how it has come together, and want to express how very grateful we are to all the local businesses that have given us support.

“It is a very good project for us, very interesting because the carpenters on site have worked on it from the ground up. We didn’t want to buy a purpose-built structure and just plonk it down.”

She added: “As we get closer and closer to 2020, we are expecting our visitor numbers to grow – from around the country, from Europe and from the USA.

“This centre will provide a way of actively engaging with not just the project, but the maritime history of Harwich, the town’s heritage and its wider history.

“We are hoping to have interactive learning exhibits for all ages and skills demonstrations – it will be more of a museum.

“The centre also gives a very good view over the ship build.

As visitor numbers grow and as the build recommences, we want to make sure it is visible.”

The building was funded by Essex County Council’ s Community Initiatives Fund and the Landfill Communities Fund.

With the completion of the centre, attention will return to building the replica ship in time for the 2020 celebrations.

The date will mark 400 years since the original Mayflower ship, which was built in Harwich, set off for America carrying the Pilgrim Fathers.

The project will see a replica of the ship constructed that will set sail for the US along the same route taken in 1620.