Brighton and Hove's iconic seafront needs up to £100 million worth of repairs because of fears it could collapse, The Argus can reveal.

For more than 200 years it has drawn in tourists from across the world and helped prop up the local economy.

But Brighton and Hove City Council has revealed it has major concerns about the safety of the arches and is investigating ways to fund a scheme to keep its picture-postcard seafront open.

Officials now face a daunting dilemma in how to raise £100 million to pay for repairs in the next “coming years and decades”.

Without it, sections of the 125-year-old seafront structures could be taped off.

The Argus understands senior figures at the local authority began discussing the issue of repairing the arch-shaped seafront structures and retaining walls last year.

But steps to create a cross-party panel to look into the subject have been delayed, as has a detailed report into the state of the arches.

The council did not provide an exact timeframe for when the work must be carried out, only stating it was needed in the coming years and decades.

If no grant funding is available through bodies like the National Lottery then the local authority would be forced to find the money from income by leasing out its land, reserves or from stretched capital expenditure budgets.

It comes a week after workmen put up signs saying they are carrying work to the historic Madeira Drive arches.

Labour councillor Gill Mitchell said: “The council cannot put off getting to grips with this very difficult nettle any longer.”

She added: “Before embarking on any major transport schemes such as Valley Gardens the full extent of the seafront work must take priority for the sake of the local economy.”

Conservative councillor Graham Cox described the estimated sum as “astronomical”.

He added: “It's very worrying as the seafront is our shop window and it is part of what attracts people to Brighton and Hove.”

Tony Mernagh, of Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said: “The problem is that the longer it is left the worse it gets and the bill gets bigger.”

A council spokesman said the £100 million was a “reasonable estimate”.

He added: “Many different forms of construction have been used over the last 125 years to build and then extend the arches.

“Any decisions on maintenance or strengthening work on any section of them would be based on very detailed structural analysis.

“The council is working to devise an investment strategy which we hope will set out how we will provide and fund the considerable sums of capital investment required.

“Structures are inspected regularly to confirm their condition and, if required, after appropriate advice is given, decisions will be taken based on the particular circumstances to ensure immediate safety.

“We will always work to put the safety of the public first.

“With regards to the current situation a section of Madeira Drive has been sectioned off after structural issues were raised in a recent survey.

“Work will now be carried out to assess and plan remedial work.”