A couple have told of the nightmare they have experienced due to their home being in the middle of a major Cornwall Council project to create new cycle and walkways.

Walking through John and Jill Hewlett’s beautiful property at Trewerry Halt it is easy to see why they decided to move there eight years ago.

Surrounded by unspoilt countryside and trees and bordered by a stream it is an idyllic beauty spot.

But for the last two years they have found themselves battling against Cornwall Council, which wants its ambitious £19million Saints Trails project to pass directly through their property.

Under the scheme the council is looking to create a network of paths covering 30km of Cornish countryside and linking Newquay, Perranporth, Truro and St Agnes.

Initially the council wanted to knock down part of the couple’s home so that the new trail could run along the route of a former railway line that used to run through the site.

Mr and Mrs Hewlett say the council offered them £1.2m to buy their home and the surrounding land so that they could proceed with the scheme.

However the couple declined because they want to remain in the home that they love.

Since then they have negotiated with the council an alternative route for the trail that would not pass through their home and would instead require their garden to be used for the new cycleway.

But negotiations have now come to a halt and this week Cornwall Council’s Cabinet agreed to apply for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) which, if agreed, would force the couple to sell the land the council wants for the trail.

However, while the couple say they would be content to release the land for the trail, the council has applied to also buy additional land which covers their driveway, and would mean that the council would own land surrounding their property.

Mr Hewlett said that while he would be willing to allow the council to have temporary access at the front of his property, to carry out the works required to create the trail, he is not willing to let them have permanent ownership – which is what they have applied for.

“Their original idea was to run the trail along the old railway track which now has a building on it, which was put there with all the relevant permissions in the 1980s,” explained Mr Hewlett.

“They offered us £1.2m for the whole property, and it turned out they wanted to use the area required for the trail and then sell the remainder of the land. But we want to live here. We are not going to sell.”

Mr Hewlett said that the council then suggested that they buy the land, demolish the house and build a replacement home for the couple. However he said that a quote of £650,000 for a new home resulted in the council going quiet on the proposal.

He said: “We are not opposed to the trail and we have suggested alternative routes that they could use, but they seem determined to do this.

“Under the new plans they would run it along the stream and that would take it right up next to our patio doors at the back. We wouldn’t object to that, but we want to see detailed plans for how it will work.

“We have asked for those plans but they have not provided them to us. Instead they have gone for a compulsory purchase order.

“But that order is looking to take permanent ownership of not just the land needed for the trail but also our driveway at the front of the house. They don’t need that.

“They have said it will be temporary and they will give it back to us.”

However Mr Hewlett said he was finding it difficult to take the council on its word due to the saga of the last two years.

Under the council’s plans Mr and Mrs Hewlett would also lose four buildings on their property – including sheds and garages – a large section of their garden and a piece of land set out as a sand school.

Mr Hewlett said: “It goes from one nightmare to the next. When we moved here we never expected that this would happen.”

The railway line has not been operational since it was closed in the 1960s and Mr Hewlett said that he did not want the issue to go to compulsory purchase, adding that he would be willing to negotiate and try to reach a compromise with the council.

Mr Hewlett said that the council was facing similar issues on other parcels of land it needs for the trails and said that it could end up costing the council more than expected.

The council’s own internal auditors have raised concerns about the cost and management of the project but council director Phil Mason told the audit committee last month that a previous estimate of a £5m overspend had now been resolved.

Philip Desmonde, Cabinet member for transport, told a Cabinet meeting this week that he was unhappy that the council was having to seek CPOs for land for the trails.

He said: “I am very disappointed to have this CPO request brought to me in the last few weeks, it was a surprise to me.”

Cllr Desmonde said that there had previously been “a poor quality level of management and delivery process” of the project which led to the review by the audit committee.

He said that he objected to the council using powers like CPO and said that he challenged officers right up to the night before the meeting to see if there was an alternative.

However he said he had been assured that there would not be any further changes or surprises in the project.

And he said he asked the council’s legal team to indicate they supported the move to seek CPOs.

Recommending that the Cabinet approved the CPO submission he said: “They are based on legal advice that said that the council can use them in the worst case scenarios and gives the ability to deliver the project and protect the funding, the £17m from the government, for this project.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted Cllr Desmonde to ask about the claims made by Mr and Mrs Hewlett but has received no response as yet.