A LEGAL battle is being waged by disgruntled villagers in Almondsbury after parish councillors put the only access road to their homes up for sale without warning.

Woodhouse Close residents first discovered that the lane and field at the back of their properties were up for auction when 'for sale' signs appeared on their street in March.

Alarmed Jean Cowan, Becky Chaplain and Brooke Stevenson immediately contacted the parish council, which owns the plot of land and path, appealing to members to grant them right of way on the road they drive on every day after the sale.

But, as their pleas fell on deaf ears, the dispute escalated and they felt they were left with no alternative but to take action and hire solicitors.

The group, who have shelled out £1,500 so far in legal fees, insisted that all councillors needed to do to put a stop to their nightmare was add a clause in the sale contract binding the buyer to allow them access.

Last Tuesday they turned up at a meeting of Almondsbury Parish Council begging councillors to hear them out.

Mother-of-two Mrs Chaplain, 32, called on members one last time to agree to a compromise before a sale went ahead.

She said: "What grounds have you for not putting a clause in the contract when it is causing so much distress to residents? We would pay for it, you would not have to spend any money."

Her neighbour Mrs Stevenson, 29, added: "You are meant to represent the people of Almondsbury and be our voice. We have always had access to that lane. We have no front access to our homes. What are we supposed to do? We are all worried sick."

Chairman Cllr Diane Wilson cut them short, saying the matter was now in the hands of solicitors.

She said: "You have not got a legal right to use it. You have had access free gratis as long as I can remember. This council has never charged you a penny for the use of that lane. You can get to your properties. You are exaggerating."

South Gloucestershire Councillor for Almondsbury and former parish council chairman Sheila Cook said she was "appalled" at the members' behaviour.

She said: "I’m very supportive of the residents’ case and I’m disappointed that the parish council are refusing to engage with them, which is why residents feel that they have no alternative but to go down the legal route – a route that will cost both the residents and the parish council."

Along with the residents, she set up a petition demanding that the sale, which was held on Tuesday evening, April 10, be postponed.

Yet, despite collecting 89 signatures, the auction went ahead and the land and lane were sold off for £74,000.

No further information on the sale had been disclosed at the time the Gazette went to press.