A PIER boss has called on business leaders to vote against funds for a major city centre project.

Anne Ackord, chief executive of Brighton Palace Pier owner Brighton Pier Group, said phase three of the controversial Valley Gardens project would harm tourism in the city.

Six million pounds of funding for the project will be decided today by Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, a group of business and council leaders.

But Ms Ackord has sent a letter to the partnership demanding its members vote against phase three of the project, which will see the Sea Life Centre roundabout replaced with a junction.

“The removal of the aquarium roundabout is ill thought through and indeed the ancillary costs of doing so remodelling Dukes Mound junction, are not even considered within the scheme,” wrote Tourism Alliance chairwoman Ms Ackord.

“The impact of these additional but necessary costs, along with the loss of tourism revenue, would probably see the scheme move from low value to negative value.

“These factors have been ignored by the council.”

Ms Ackord worried replacing the seafront roundabout would increase traffic and drive tourists out of the city because public transport is too expensive.

“Visiting families from out of town need to come by car or train and as you are aware a large percentage are put off trains by the sheer costs,” she said.

“An ambition to get people out of their cars is admirable but this must be preceded with a viable alternative transport strategy.

“It is a very simple equation that more congestion leads to less willingness to travel and hence less income for the critical visitor economy.

“This scheme flies in the face of ambitions to increase visitors and improve the environment.”

Conservative city councillors echoed the pier boss’s criticism.

Tourism spokesman Cllr Robert Nemeth the council should “sit up and listen intently” to businesses’ concerns.

And transport spokesman Cllr Lee Wares added: “There is something very wrong when the city’s businesses and citizens lobby Government not to give the council money

“Brighton is known for a lot of firsts but this has got to be one of the most bizarre.”

But Labour councillor Anne Pissaridou, who is in charge of transport, said phase three of the Valley Gardens project would create a new “focal point” in the city.

She said: “It will draw more people and investment into that area and adjacent areas such as St James’s Street, Madeira Drive, and the wide seafront.

“This will result in improved environmental, social, health and economic outcomes. “

The Coast to Capital board decides on £6 million of funding today.