A CHARITY chairman has slammed a council for overlooking it in plans to celebrate the Mayflower ship anniversary.

Tony Elliston, chairman of the Mayflower Heritage Centre, says Tendring Council even plans to name it’s new welcome centre the same as it’s own Mayflower Visitor Centre.

It comes after the council revealed £50,000 to create a Mayflower ship themed exhibition, which it will base at the Esplanade Hall in Harwich.

But the Mayflower Heritage Centre, originally set up as the Mayflower Project with the intention of building a replica boat to mark the 400th anniversary of the ship’s famous voyage, said it has the perfect base.

The centre, in George Street, has a visitor centre with memorabilia of the ship that sailed the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620.

Mr Elliston said: “The only reason for the decision articulated in the council’s action plan was the Esplanade Hall is ideally located for ease of access from the main transport hub at Harwich railway station. We leased one of the transport hubs and have a visitor centre.

“I know the Mayflower Project has gone through some rough times, but it has been plodding away at this since 2009.

“It seems a shame all of that money, £50,000, to pull together an exhibition for just a year when we are offering 25 years in a building that has disabled access and parking for coaches and cars.”

Mr Elliston wrote a letter to Tendring Council chief executive Ian Davidson to complain about being overlooked.

He said: “It was clearly disappointing to hear we were not considered to provide this facility - we expressed an interest. It is even more disappointing, for our hard-working staff and volunteers to hear the reason.”

Mr Elliston said trustees met with Mr Davidson and were told it was not considered due to its reputation.

He added: “I’ve been chairman for 18 months and I’ve tried to address all of the concerns people had raised prior to my arrival. I’ve changed accounting procedures and people involved, and done a forensic investigation of the books - we haven’t found anything and there has been a charity commission investigation as well and nothing was found. My issue is the council was listening to rumour rather than looking at the evidence. It’s disappointing.”

The Mayflower Heritage Centre plans to build a land-based replica of the Mayflower Ship ready for the 400th anniversary of it’s voyage in September 2020.

Mike Carran, head of leisure at Tendring Council, said there had been an open and honest discussion with the Mayflower Heritage Centre trustees.

He said: “Mayflower 400 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Harwich and one that we must grab with two hands – and get right.

“Working closely with a number of partners, including the Harwich Society, we are determined to help make Harwich an even better destination for visitors both for 2020 and for years to come.

“As part of that work we have always engaged with the Mayflower Heritage Trust team. We are pleased to learn that investigations have found no improper conduct, and certainly feel the Mayflower Heritage Centre has moved in a positive direction since Mr Elliston took over.”

Mr Carran added the Esplanade Hall had always been the preferred location for the Welcome Centre as it works well with the Mayflower Trail being developed, and the £50,000 allocated to that project was for exhibitions and digital content which will last many years.

He said: “We are certain the whole community will welcome this wonderful Victorian building being used again and we are grateful to the church’s support.”