A CHURCH is to cut down an 18m high tree after worries its pine cones could injury passersby.

St Peter’s Church in West Blatchington, Hove, will cut down a Scots pine tree on its grounds after two worshippers fell foul of falling pine cones.

The Diocese of Chichester consistory court, which governs churches across Sussex, gave permission to churchwarden Jonathan Cooke to fell the tree in Court Farm Road.

Mr Cooke said the tree has more than 130 large cones, which have started to fall.

“Already at least two people are known to have been struck, fortunately with no ill effects as they were grown men,” he said.

“The fear is one day a child or vulnerable elderly adult will be struck with disastrous consequences.”

But Brighton and Hove city councillor Dawn Barnett said the decision was "one of the stupidest things I've heard in my entire life".

She said: "We might as well cut down all the horse chestnut trees because the conkers might hurt someone.

"Surely you can just walk around the tree? You don't have to walk under it.

"Or you could put a couple of steps up there and remove all of the pine cones. We could use them for Christmas decorations."

Mark Hill, chancellor of the diocese, gave the green light to chop the tree down as it hangs over a path between the church and a community centre.

He wrote in his judgement: “Young children attending pre-school events or the Sunday school would be particularly vulnerable.

“The loss of a healthy mature tree is regrettable, although the petitioners had to consider risk of injury to passersby.”

A report by Kevin Rodgers of New Timber Land Management said the falling pine cones could pose a “significant risk of injury”.

He said all other avenues to stop the future injury had been explored, but cutting down the tree was the only feasible option.

But the diocese’s decision was not without its detractors.

Mr Hill’s report noted a couple had objected to the felling of the tree.

The anonymous critics said it was not a good reason to fell the tree “simply because one person was struck by a falling pine cone”.

The report read: “The public notice led to a letter of objection from a married couple.

“The writers of the letter indicate they are long-term residents of the area.

“The wife recalls playing under the tree as a child in the 1960s.

“They consider that felling the tree would be detrimental to the visual amenity

of the church and the graveyard.”

The longest ever pine cone was found in Cuyahoga Falls in America in 2001 and measured 58.2cm long.

St Peter’s Church in Hove is thought to have been built by the Saxons in the 11th century.

It was eventually abandoned in 1596 but was rebuilt in the 19th century after a rich donor left money in her will to fund repairs.

The building is protected by Historic England.