A “Greater Brighton” has been formed to rival London, Manchester and Birmingham.
Politicians representing 500,000 people from Goring to Cuckmere Haven have joined forces for the first time to attract funding of hundreds of millions of pounds.
It comes as part of a bid by Brighton and Hove, Lewes, Adur and Worthing councils to the Government for devolved powers to “kick start” the economy across the south coast.
Bosses at Brighton and Hove City Council said even if the City Deal bid is unsuccessful, “Greater Brighton” will continue to represent the region on a national and international stage.
This would put it on a par with cities like London, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham when competing for investment.
But council leaders denied that working together meant they were giving up individual identities.
City council leader Jason Kitcat told The Argus: “This is first and foremost about influencing government and business.
“Joining together pushes us beyond that valuable 500,000 population mark which opens up possibilities on the funding front. It’s not about losing any identity.
“If you look at London and Manchester, they have a regional identity but there is also a local one.
“It’s about recognising that the area is all connected.”
But Adur district councillor Liza McKinney said: “Brighton has always had its eyes on us. I think their argument centres on the port and they have already nabbed the airport off us.
"I think it would be pitchforks and riots in the street if they joined Shoreham and Southwick with Brighton.”
The Greater Brighton region was one of just 20 up-and-coming areas invited to submit bids in the second stage of the City Deal.
The councils joined the city’s two universities, business leaders and key companies, such as E.ON, American Express, Ricardo, and EDF, to draw up a plan. It is focused on boosting “eco tech” industries.
The proposals include reviving stalled redevelopment sites such as Newhaven Port, Preston Barracks and Shoreham Harbour.
Bosses also want to have flexibility to set local tax rates and remove red tape to help smaller and medium sized businesses.
The exact powers will be decided after negotiations with Whitehall officials and ministers.
Coun Kitcat said: “We are bidding to cement our position as a regional powerhouse for digital and eco-tech businesses whilst ensuring key development projects can regain momentum.”
Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin said he had been working with Brighton and Hove for a number of years. He added: “We will do anything that will bring money into our communities. But it certainly will not affect our identity.”
Lewes District Council leader James Page said: “There’s no question of losing identity. We’re bringing quite a substantial amount to the party. There are examples, such as the ultrafast broadband bid, where Brighton has missed out due to population levels.
“If we can help out Brighton and raise the regional profile then so be it.”
Tony Mernagh, of Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said: “We have to be able to be bigger than just Brighton in order to be attractive to both industries and central government.”
City bosses believe an announcement on whether Greater Brighton will reach the next stage will be made this week.
A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said no date had yet been set.
If successful in the initial stage, a final bid will be submitted to the Government by June 2013.
Talking point: To what extent do you welcome the idea of Sussex council's joining together? Share your views by commenting below or write a longer piece for The Argus letters pages by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Man we met at gay nightclub died on our sofa
- Police called as girls, 12, get thrown out of cinema
- UPDATE: Severe delays on all Brighton and Hove bus services
- New ticket scheme confuses commuters at Brighton station
- Ambulance crews get CCTVs to safeguard them at work