More than 6,000 conifers which occupied a "stunning beauty spot" alongside the A666 in Lancashire have been felled to combat rampant dogging on the 12-hectare site.
According to the Daily Mail, the council used a health and safety smokescreen to justify clearing the site on the outskirts of Darwen, claiming that the 60-year-old trees were in danger of falling over and squashing passing motorists.
A spokesman for United Utilities, which carried out the clearance, confirmed: "They were old and at risk of falling into the road causing an accident. Following a health and safety survey, a licence was applied for and granted through the Forestry Commission to fell them."
However, inside sources said that the cull was ordered also to put an end to dogging at the site. Local councillor Jean Rigby enthused: "The area will be replanted with native species that, in 20 years, people will see the benefit of.
"I'm more than happy this is being carried out - and it has a double whammy in terms of the sexual behaviour. I've heard anecdotally that since the trees have been cleared, it's quietened down a lot!"
Sgt Mark Wilson, of Lancashire Police's Darwen Neighbourhood Policing team, said: "It's an ongoing problem and very worrying for members of the public. It's far too early to tell if cutting the trees back has had any impact on the dogging situation, but we'll be paying regular attention to the area."
That's exactly what coppers should have been doing in the first place, protested TaxPayers' Alliance chief exec Matthew Elliott, who thundered: "It's awful that a public green space, an asset to the local community, has been destroyed mindlessly.
"If the law was enforced properly then there would be no need to chop down these trees. The police and the council should work more closely with local residents to fight crime in order to prevent such a travesty happening again in future."
Brian Jackson, of Friends of the Earth, described the felling as "absurd". He insisted: "The conifer trees in this area are very valuable in providing windbreaks and attracting rainfall to the area."
United Utilities pointed out that the conifers were commercial trees, and would indeed be replaced with "natural broad leaf trees". The Mail and Telegraph have snaps of the cleared site, now free of conifers and doggers, right here and here. ®