THE man behind a multi-million plan for the King Alfred leisure centre has blasted council officials after they recommended the scheme be ditched.

The £400 million proposals for the city council-owned land on Hove seafront included a new £50 million sports facility to replace the current leisure centre.

The Starr Trust based in Brighton, was awarded the procurement with co-developer Crest Nicholson in January 2016.

But Crest pulled out in August amid concerns about Brexit.

Now, policy and resources councillors, who meet today, are being urged to drop the Starr Trust from the project.

Rob Starr, who runs the charity, branded the decision “lazy, negligent and utterly absurd”.

He now believes he is at war with the council officials.

The officers’ recommend the committee “agrees the procurement should be closed, that the current project should be ended and that the council should serve a notice under Regulation 55 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 confirming that the council will not be awarding a contract”.

Mr Starr said: “I’m at war with them as far as I’m concerned, they are denying the city of a brilliant opportunity.

“They are scared of putting their name to a project which could have a legal challenge.”

Mr Starr has found a “bigger” partner in Legal and General, which has agreed to take Crest’s place.

But the council said it would be “unlawful” to award a contract to any party other than Crest.

At least six failed ventures have been launched to redevelop the site since 1969.

Mr Starr is arguing procurement law is subjective and based on the deciding council’s risk assessment.

He also argues the council could look at other options without ending his procurement.

His plans include a £50 million sports facility along with hundreds of homes, 20 per cent of which would be affordable.

There is a total of £23 million of public money – £15 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund and £8 million from the council – approved to assist the developer

He said: “We [The Starr Trust] are the winning bidders. There is no reason to take us off the table.”

Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle is backing Mr Starr’s plans.

He said: “Going back to the drawing board will delay Hove having a modern swimming pool and health centre by another ten years and waste over £15 million – this is simply intolerable.

“I’m told time and time again by local families that they want to stop driving to Worthing and Burgess Hill and have decent local facilities.

“The winning bid has not changed – just the team delivering – so I hope that the council will consider this and look at overcoming any legal issues rather than avoiding tackling them.”

A council spokesman said: “The Starr Trust has approached us in the hope of continuing with the project with a new partner.

“We have given their proposal serious consideration, but concluded that Public Procurement Regulations simply do not allow this.

“We acknowledge the Starr Trust’s central role in establishing its relationship with Crest Nicholson, and that it has been a committed partner throughout the project, however it was not the organisation the council would have entered into a contract with to deliver the new King Alfred. We have had strong legal advice, from a leading QC, that the council cannot award the contract to an organisation which was not successful following the procurement process, and that it would therefore be unlawful to award a contract to any party other than Crest Nicholson.”