AN elderly couple have told of their devastation at being locked out of their home after a wall was built cutting across their front path while they were out.
John Gridley, 74, claims it is "impossible" to get 81-year-old wife Mavis' wheelchair through the narrow gap the builder has left at the entrance to their end-of-terrace cottage in Devon.
The pensioner, who is recovering from a fall, also can't manoeuvre himself from the pavement as it is a steep step down and the gate now doesn't open fully without brute force.
The couple have been forced to ask a neighbour to "climb" into the house to fetch their essentials – and they are too scared to return.
John said: "We've had this house for 20 years. It really frightened us. We were totally intimidated.
"I'm an ex-policeman and I was absolutely shaking. My life has been shattered.
"We're both elderly, my wife is in her 80s, and we've simply got to have access to our own home."
John said he first suspected something was up when he and Mavis returned from a day out to find an unknown car on their drive.
The following day, "ruthless" developer Lee Lipscombe, 53, and his men came "mobhanded" and started tearing down the fence outside their home.
John and Mavis fled to a nearby friend's in fear of the workmen, but neighbours told them that concrete blocks started piling up.
When the work was finally finished and the couple returned to the house, they made the devastating discovery they couldn't get to the front door.
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They asked pals to find a way into the house to grab some spare clothes and toiletries while they figured out what to do.
But John and Mavis were so traumatised by the ordeal, they went to stay at their other home in Surrey – and can't yet face going back.
The Gridleys have owned the 1850s property in the quiet village for more than two decades.
While they spend time at their other house in Ashford, Surrey, the couple have enjoyed many happy stays with family on Bailey Terrace in Bridgerule, Devon.
During this time, John took ownership of the small, unregistered patch of land outside the house and maintained it ever since.
But it was bought by Lee for £5,000 in 2020 as part of his "scheme" to build housing on the meadowland behind the Gridleys' home.
These plans include widening the road up to the land for vehicle and emergency services access, which involved building the triangular wall on the couple's assumed drive.
'NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH ROOM'
John estimates it measures about four inches thick and up to 18 inches high, but seems taller due to the slope of the drive.
He claims Lee has attempted to replicate the original raised bed, but has done so in a way that means there is "no way you can drive off the road".
"I've got a bare metre from the edge of the wall to the edge of our house," John said.
"There is a pipe coming down from the bathroom and my gate opens on to that so of course I can't open it properly.
"We only have access to the house from this entrance and he's built the wall in a position where we simply can't get in.
"Our neighbours managed to shimmy around the gate to get in, but we can't do that.
"There is nowhere near enough room for pedestrian and wheelchair access."
I've got a bare metre from the edge of the wall to the edge of our house.
The Sun has made several attempts to approach Lee about the matter, but each time he refused to comment.
However, experts have confirmed he could be hauled to court if the Gridleys decide to take legal action.
Christopher Bernard, partner at Housing & Property Law Partnership Solicitors, said: "If you go into your house, or anywhere, for more than 20 years then you simply have a right of way.
"They could take Mr Lipscombe to country court to get an order saying the wall should be knocked down."
John has since referred the matter to the parish council and Devon and Cornwall Police, though officers said they could not comment on "action involving named individuals".
A spokesperson for Torridge District Council urged the Gridleys to contact the Council Planning Enforcement process.
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