A WOODEN cross which disappeared from a remote moor shortly before a traditional Easter service was cut down by the council.
Organisers of the dawn service on Waskerley Moor, near Consett, initially thought thieves had taken the 10ft wooden cross, which was erected during Lent and discovered to be missing on the eve of the Easter Sunday service.
The service, attended by more than 30 worshippers, went ahead after Methodist minister the Reverend Les Nevin carved a replacement cross from freshly-fallen snow.
However, it has now emerged that Durham County Council chopped down and removed the cross because it had been built on a Site of Special Scientific Interest and breached strict guidelines set up to protect the local habitat.
Andy Niven, countryside service manager at Durham County Council, said the authority had no choice but to cut it down.
He said: “It was dug into the ground and concreted in without any warning and without consent or advice on the potential impact it might have on this very rare habitat.
“There was nothing on it to say who had put it there and neither the council, as landowner, or Natural England, which is responsible for SSSI areas, were asked for permission or advice.
“As a result we had no choice but to remove it.”