A man has been ordered to drive hundreds of miles back to Crackington Haven, Cornwall, and return the rocks that he stole from the beach. (iStock)

A tourist who “stole” pebbles from a beach in Cornwall is being forced to return them or face prosecution.

The unidentified man has been ordered to drive hundreds of miles back to Crackington Haven, Cornwall, and return the rocks that he stole from the beach, which has put up several signs warning the public that stealing pebbles is illegal, the Telegraph reports.

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The Coastal Protection Act of 1949 outlaws the taking of stones from Great Britain public beaches for fear of environmental impacts from leaving the area exposed to erosion. Clerk Barry Jordan for St. Gennys Parish Council has warned visitors to the beach that those caught stealing pebbles could face a fine of up to $1,290 (£1,000).

A spokesman said to the Telegraph, “It may seem harmless but given the many thousands of visitors to Cornwall’s beaches every year, every stone removed could have an impact on coastal erosion, natural flood defenses and wildlife habitats.”

Jordan explained the reason behind the harsh fines.

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“Those who saw the damage of the floods a few years ago know what water can do, take away the pebbles and the haven would be damaged during every storm,” Jordan said to the Telegraph.

The council also started installing signs around the beach, warning people about the penalty for stealing stones. However, the critics have claimed they spoil the view.

“We must have such a problem with stone theft that the beach is now littered with large red and yellow signs threatening prosecution,” artist Jen Dixon said to the Telegraph.

“They are so darn ugly on our beautiful beach. It seems very heavy-handed to have that so many signs,” she added.

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Local council reportedly removed two of the four signs after receiving backlash.

The Telegraph reported that the move came three years after local council was forced to microchip flowers and shrubs after people kept stealing them from public parks.