OPPORTUNITIES to celebrate Harwich’s link with the Mayflower Ship have not been dented by the coronavirus outbreak.

This year marks 400 years since the ship sailed the Pilgrim Fathers to America and founded the first permanent settlement.

Harwich, the home of the ship and its master Captain Christopher Jones, is part of an international group of destinations leading on the commemorations of the anniversary.

Attractions linked to the ship in the town include the home of Christopher Jones, a Visitor Centre as Esplanade Hall and a Mayflower Trail around the town.

With early Mayflower 400 events disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, there has been major concern that Harwich - and the other destinations - would miss the boat.

However, feedback from tour operators has revealed cancelled trips are being rescheduled for 2021, which can give a renewed focus to the Mayflower 400 compact.

Neil Stock, Tendring Council’s leader, has urged people to stay positive and to make use of the extra time to prepare to welcome visitors.

He said: “A whole lot of work has been done by an awful lot of people to make Historic Harwich a top-notch destination and to make the most of the opportunity afforded by Mayflower 400.

“We know residents and businesses in the area may be concerned about the impact of coronavirus on this, but the opportunity has not sailed.

“Christopher Jones’ House is pretty much ready to open once lockdown ends, the Visitor Centre will not be far behind – and now is your chance to get on board and make sure you are ready.”

Charles Hackett, chief executive of Mayflower 400, said: “It is hugely disappointing that we are going to have to make changes to the programme that people have worked so hard on and that so many have engaged with and supported – but the opportunities arising from Mayflower 400 remain as strong as ever.”

Earlier this year Tendring Council launched the Harwich and Dovercourt Bay Business Grants Scheme, and eligible traders are being encouraged to use the enforced lockdown period to send in their application form and draw up their plans.

Independent businesses in Dovercourt and Historic Harwich, can apply for a match-funded grant towards improvement works on their premises, with grants ranging from as little as £200 up to a maximum of £2,000.

The work must be agreed with the council before it commences.

Mary Newton, cabinet member for business and economic growth, added: “Although council representatives visited all the businesses in both towns in early March, before the lockdown, we appreciate this grant scheme may have been put on the back burner while immediate matters of enforced closure and social distancing took precedence.

“We would like to remind businesses in Harwich and Dovercourt about the scheme, which is perhaps more important than ever now as we begin to consider how our recovery from this pandemic may look. Although we know many businesses are not currently able to trade or open their business at the moment, it could be ideal time to consider how you might be able to make use of these grants and consider an application.”

For full details of the grant scheme visit www.tendringdc.gov.uk/tendring4growth.