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Couple cancel Grand Mini Tour after land battle with council

PUBLISHED: 09:27 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 09:39 25 April 2014

Terry Johnson on the piece of land in question, with his land plans.

Terry Johnson on the piece of land in question, with his land plans.

Archant

Bideford pair who have raised nearly half-a-million for charity cancel event which has run over two decades following lengthy court battle.

"It has broken our hearts but we have to cancel the mini run this year and we don’t know if we will come back to North Devon again after this."

Terry Baker, Grand Mini Tour organiser

A COUPLE who have raised more than £400,000 for charity have cancelled their annual fundraiser after a three year battle with Devon County Council over a shed.

Terry and Linda Baker, from Bideford, are facing thousands-of-pounds in costs after losing the case with the council over a piece of land no more than three metres wide.

And now the Bakers, who have run the Grand Mini Tour over the August bank holiday for the last two decades in North Devon, say they have decided to cancel the charity event.

Mr Baker said: “This battle has made our life miserable and it’s kept us away from our daughters when they were going through breast cancer and needed us there.

Hundreds of minis normally flock around North Devon during August. Pic: Tony Howells Hundreds of minis normally flock around North Devon during August. Pic: Tony Howells

“We have now decided to sell the house and move away to be closer to them.

“We’ve never asked for any recognition for all the money we’ve raised for the Children’s Hospice South West, but now we can’t do it anymore.

“It has broken our hearts but we have to cancel the mini run this year and we don’t know if we will come back to North Devon again after this.”

The court proceedings came after the couple erected a shed on the land at the back of their garden in 2006, which they have been using since 1988.

The piece of land at the heart of the debate. The piece of land at the heart of the debate.

The land is only accessible via the Baker’s garden as it is bordered by a stream, and the shed was built there so they could house equipment for their charity efforts.

In 2009, Devon County Council wrote to the couple, stating the land belonged to them and that the Baker’s could purchase it for £2,500.

But Mr Baker said he did not want to sign the letter as it stated there had been a wall at the end of the garden which the council claimed had been knocked down.

“We had photographic evidence there had never been a wall there and I didn’t want to sign something which was a lie,” he said.

Hundreds of minis normally flock around North Devon during August. Pic: Tony Howells Hundreds of minis normally flock around North Devon during August. Pic: Tony Howells

A lengthy court battle then ensued, which eventually resulted in the council winning the rights to the land and the Bakers left to mop up the costs.

“We were ordered to take the shed down, which we did,” said Mr Baker.

“But now we have done that, we’ve had a final piece of divine intervention – because you can clearly see the land on our deeds runs up to the boundary with the stream.

“We are now back at square one, because this is something that wasn’t seen in the original case and we feel it proves the land is ours.”

Mr and Mrs Baker have now taken the decision to cancel the Grand Mini Tour and move away from the area.

“I just think it’s appalling when we have done so much for people in this area that we are treated like this,” he said.

A Devon County Council spokesman said: “Having lost the case, Mr and Mrs Baker have been ordered to pay the costs incurred by Devon County Council and, once the costs have been quantified, we will be calling upon them to pay whatever is due.

“Before issuing proceedings we wrote to Mr Baker twice, offering him the opportunity to buy the land for around £2,500.

“Unfortunately he didn’t acknowledge the offer, leaving us with no alternative but to issue proceedings.”

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