Campaigners bidding create a new heritage park in the centre of Halstead have been granted official charity status.

Halstead 21st Century Group is hoping its new status will ensure the group's future and allow it to bid for more grant funding going forward.

A spokesman for the group said members were delighted with the group's newfound title.

She said: "Recently the Charity Commission introduced a set up which meant you do not have to have a really big income to become a charity.

"It means instead of being a collection of individuals the group is now one entity.

"That will enable us to enter into contracts. It will also allow us to apply for a wider range of grants.

"It gives us more scope and opens a number of doors which we wouldn't have been able to open before.

"Being registered as a charity will allow us to move forward with our alternative vision if we are able to."

The group, which has a membership of 105 people, first formed in 2013 when a local woodland and heritage asset to the east of High Street was threatened by developers.

The site, which has been abandoned for more than 50 years, has more recently been earmarked for housing, but campaigners are keen to create a new green space as an alternative to development.

In August this year, Halstead 21st Century revealed its own plans for the area, which include creating a wildlife area, children's play facilities and restoring 16 air raid shelters sited on the land.

The spokesman continued: "As a charity, everything we do will be for the publics benefit.

"We are thinking at the moment about the possibility of working on a project to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War next year.

"We are putting our heads together and hope to do something to mark that.

"We already work with other groups but this gives us a very public endorsement by the charity commission.

"The site next to the town centre is really important to us and we believe everything we want to see if for the benefit of Halstead."

The group's next meeting takes place at 7.30pm on Tuesday at Halstead Baptist Church, in Hedingham Road.