A council has pledged to seek extra financial backing to a multi-million pound take-over of Newhaven Port but it will not add its own cash to the venture.

East Sussex County Council's cabinet yesterday supported the approach by the French council of Seine Maritime to buy the struggling port from current owners Sea Containers.

The deal, believed to be in the region of £30 million, will see the return of a year-round freight ferry service between Newhaven and Dieppe from March next year.

Freight services have not run from Newhaven since P&O scrapped its operation in January 1999 at the cost of hundreds of jobs.

Following the news, a protocol has been signed by local councillors, the conseil general of Seine Maritime, representatives of Newhaven Economic Partnership and the South East of England Development Agency.

The document pledges to share full financial and business planning information between interested parties.

The groups will also seek financial contributions to the project.

But council bosses will not put taxpayers money up to push the project through.

County council leader David Rogers said: "The council welcomes this bold initiative from Seine Maritime, with its clear commitment to re-instating a freight ferry service.

"We are not in a position to make a financial contribution but we will be helping to facilitate this venture.

"This is excellent news for Newhaven and the whole county of East Sussex."

If the French bid is successful it will create job opportunities on both sides of the Channel.