Elderly residents have accused a council of “bullying” them by trying to make them pay as much as £13,700 to reach their own houses.
And now Shepway District Council is threatening to block the access altogether unless the dispute is resolved.
Three couples and a widow living in Green Lane, Hythe, use two bridges over a dyke to get to their four bungalows.
This means crossing over council-owned land, which had a charge of just over £1 a year for all four households under a 1950s lease but, now that lease has expired Shepway is trying to charge each household £500 a year rent or a one-off payment of £13,700 for permanent access.
One resident, Sue Page, 61, said: “I would call this bullying and intimidation. You don’t dare to even go out because you wonder even if the bridge will be lifted when we come back.
“It is a nightmare, it has cause us sleepless nights.”
Most of the residents, aged from their 60s to 80s, have health problems such as disability from industrial injury, osteoarthritis and heart condition. One is a cancer survivor.
The four homes, plus a fifth, had been under a 50-year lease, from January 1957, to have access through the land, owned by the then Hythe Borough Council, for a guinea (£1.05) a year between them. That would be a rent of 21p each per year in modern decimal currency but Shepway became landowners after replacing the borough council in 1974 and the lease expired in January 2007.
The fifth household bought a permanent right of access from the council for £12,500 in 2011.
In April 2014 Shepway wrote to the remaining householders saying it wanted to charge them. The high price demanded was based on soaring land prices since the 1950s and following advice from chartered surveyors.
But the sums expected have yo-yoed.