East Sussex County Council approved a 5.6km single carriageway between the A259 in Bexhill and the B2092 Queensway in Hastings last December. The DfT will contribute £79 million towards the total cost of £88.7 million. East Sussex will make up the difference.
But Hastings Alliance campaigner Derrick Coffee warned: "The scheme would deliver more congestion, higher carbon emissions and undermine walking, cycling and public transport."
Campaign for Better Transport roads campaigner Richard George said: "I cannot believe that the government really regards a road scheme as the best way to regenerate the area."
Last February, the communities secretary decided against calling in the application. A legal agreement was signed in July, enabling permission to be issued with 32 conditions.
A public inquiry to consider the compulsory purchase of land for the link road will start on 10 November and is expected to last four weeks.