The leaders of Brighton’s Freecycle group have formed a rival site after a rift with its American owners.

More than 17,000 people are a part of the Brighton and Hove group which helps residents offload furniture, clothes and unwanted goods for free.

But now the moderators of the site - who control what is offered and how members behave online - have quit in anger after a row with the American organisation behind the website.

They have become the first group in the country to split from Freecycle and claim their new site, GreenCycleSussex, will contain more localised pages.

The moderators claim the split follows unsatisfactory negotiations with US-based The Freecycle Network about the refusal of the American organisation to allow minor changes on websites on a location by location basis.

In a statement a spokesman for the Brighton and Hove group said: “Earlier this summer four leading members of the National UK Freecycle team resigned, including the director, in protest at the lack of change.

“Moderators around the country then formed an Independent Association of Moderators and again tried talking with The Freecycle Network in the US, hoping to negotiate and find a positive way to continue under the banner of Freecycle. This has not been possible.

“We acknowledge that what Freecycle does in the community is great. We just don't agree that we should be dictated to from across the Atlantic and adopt inappropriate policies. We think the members and moderators make Freecycle great.

“There have now been multiple summary expulsions of moderators who have asked for change from Freecycle. All UK moderators have lost their freedom of speech within the organisation so here in Brighton we have decided to go our own way.”

Larry Pickleman, a member of Brighton Freecycle, said he was “dismayed” that a “fantastic working group” had been destroyed.

But moderator Cat Fletcher said working under the umbrella of the Freecycle network (USA) was “untenable”.

She added: “We have set up a new grassroots case to facilitate the continuation of keeping stuff out of landfill.

“It only takes a minute to join the new group which works just like Freecycle.”

She said: ”I intend to carry on re-using goods and stopping them going to landfill in Brighton around the clock seven days a week.

“This is something that wasn't going to be made easier with an absent group owner and interference from the USA.”

Nan Bixby, the hub coordinator for the Freecycle Network in the USA, said: "Sadly, there are times when groups feel they can better serve their local community in other ways.

“When this happens we wish them well and continue in our efforts to save local landfills.

“We always look for moderators who are local to the community even if that means temporarily, such as in the case with the Brighton group, we may have interim moderators not local until a local moderator can be found."