A PROJECT to build a full-size replica of a historical ship is one step closer to reality.

The Mayflower Project, initially proposed almost a year ago, was awarded charitable status last week after organisers had to wait six months to see if they had been successful.

It means the replica of The Mayflower, which is estimated to cost £4m to build, has taken a significant step towards being finished by the group.

Tom Daly, a project trustee, said: “We are absolutely over the moon with the news.

“It has taken us a while to get it done and it was wonderful when we were officially informed by the Charity Commission on Wednesday.

“Our new status means that we can now also collect gift aid when a taxpayer donates or sponsors the project. The registration confirms in peoples minds that we are a legitimate and serious organisation.

“We can now start fundraising as it would not have been sensible to do so until our Charity Registration was awarded.

“One of the many ways we intend to raise money is by asking people to sponsor local trees which will help fund the project.”

It is estimated that 300 oak trees will be used to build the replica, although 100 will be planted for every one that is felled.

Sponsors will be sought to pay £25 for each new tree that is planted.

Christopher Jones, master of The Mayflower, was born and raised in Harwich and captained the ship on its voyage to Massachusetts, North America, in 1620.

At the moment the trustees are remaining tight-lipped over what the public can expect next.

"There are many positive stages going on in the background. However we would like to tell people when we have made definite progress and the Charity Registration is just the first step", added Mr Daly.