A busy seafront stretch will be closed to traffic for the next three weeks as hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the city.

Despite tourism chiefs predicting an influx of more than a million people in August, Brighton and Hove City Council has agreed for Southern Gas Networks (SGN) to start digging up Kings Road, Brighton, from today to decommission a leaky gas main.

The firm claims the £81,000 scheme, which will see a lane on the A259 closed to traffic for the next three weeks, will prevent further repairs and reduce disruption in the future. During the work, the outside lane of the eastbound carriageway will be closed between Cannon Place and West Street for three weeks.

But traders and councillors have asked why non-emergency work is being carried out now at the height of summer when the city is on show to the world.

Stuart Wilkie, chairman of The Lanes Traders’ Association, said: “It just lacks common sense.

“Summer is a very important time of year for everyone here.

“Why could it have not taken place in spring or, even better, in September or October, when it is quiet for business?

“It’s disappointing that they would do this when traders need all the help they can get.”

Labour councillor Gill Mitchell said: “It beggars belief that in a principal seaside resort during one of the best summers for years the council and Southern Gas has decided to dig up the seafront road for three weeks.

‘Problematic’ “These are planned, not emergency, works and should have been scheduled outside of the busy tourist season.”

The firm claims the out-of-date gas main outside the Brighton Centre currently requires frequent repair.

By carrying out the work to the “problematic” section, it believes future disruption to the community will be minimised.

Simon Russell, SGN general manager, said: “All our work is being carried out in close consultation with the council and we are committed to completing the project as quickly and efficiently as possible, while doing everything we can to minimise disruption.

“We recognise that the A259 is a strategic traffic route and so we will have multiple teams working on the project and we will be working extended hours, including weekends, when appropriate.

“I would like to apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused by our work.”

The news comes a few days after council estimates claimed one million people visited the city in July.

At the time, tourism bosses predicted the figure could be even higher in August, which is traditionally the busiest month.

A council spokeswoman said: “This gas main has been the source of many problems over the years and the work by Southern Gas Networks to decommission it will reduce future disruption of this busy stretch of road.”

l A short video to explain more about the project can be found under ‘current projects’ in the Roadworks section on the website www.sgn.co.uk.