THE star of a cult film has thrown his support behind a campaign which is asking for a seafront road to be reopened.

Gary Shail, who played Spider in 1979 film Quadrophenia, warned that businesses could close in Madeira Drive, Brighton, unless vehicles were allowed into the area again.

The seafront road features heavily in the film, which is loosely based on The Who’s rock opera of the same name.

Mods meet for breakfast at a cafe in Madeira Drive before enjoying a rowdy evening in a nearby dance hall, the exterior of which is now Sea Life Brighton. But the road was shut to cars and other vehicles in April to give Brighton residents more space to exercise during the lockdown.

Following positive feedback from people using the closed road, Brighton and Hove City Council said it was considering a permanent closure in the area. But several businesses said this would damage their trade as customers could not access their seafront sites.

A petition, signed more than 10,600 times, is running on the council website urging the authority to “reopen Brighton’s Madeira Drive to all users without further delay to save the businesses operating there”.

It adds: “Brighton and Hove has suffered enormous economic damage owing to lockdown and needs all the help it can get to recover.”

Hove resident Ollie Wilson has been an integral part of the campaign to reopen the road, and led a “UK mods and rockers’ big protest’ in the road throughout yesterday.

And, ahead of the demonstration, the group were buoyed by a message of support from Quadrophenia star Gary Shail.

He said: “Madeira Drive was, of course, one of the key locations for Quadrophenia in which I play the character of Spider

“Madeira Drive is an incredibly significant place for mods and bikers alike, who have been regular visitors to the shops, the restaurants, the bars and all the other places since the early 60s.

“I think it’s incredibly sad that all these businesses will suffer and perhaps even have to close if the planned road closure goes ahead.

“I believe that this is a misguided and terrible decision to restrict this fantastic destination to specific interest groups at the expense of others.

“I really hope that the Sunday protest is well-supported by mods and rockers alike who, with other supporters, now have a petition of almost 11,000 people.”

He said he hoped the demonstration could convince the council that “Madeira Drive is a cultural gem that must be reopened for all visitors”.

Responding to calls to reopen the road to cars, councillor Amy Heley, who co-chairs the environment committee said: “We appreciate that many local residents and traders have strong views on the use of Madeira Drive, including current arrangements that mean it is open to walkers and cyclists, but with general motor vehicle access restricted. As part of Covid-19 guidance,we have been encouraged to make more space available to aid socially distanced walking, exercise, cycling and play.”

This has led to an exploration of what can be done to improve safety in different parts of the city. The existing cycle lane on the promenade, for example, is not wide enough for adapted disability cycles or cargo bikes and runs straight through busy pedestrian areas.

“The council has already heard from people welcoming the changes and those who are concerned it will have a long-term impact. All these views will be taken into account when council meets to discuss this issue.”