AN EXTREME rat infestation in the town centre has been described as a “public health concern” by residents who say the pests are entering their homes and breeding at a “frightening speed”.

As previously reported, 50 residents living in homes near Glebe Gardens in the town centre signed a letter to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council calling for “urgent” action to tackle the “out of control” rat infestation, after the pests began entering their homes, nesting in roof spaces and rotting in cavity walls.

The borough council said it is working with residents to tackle the problem.

READ MORE: Council working to tackle rat infestation in Basingstoke town centre

Basingstoke Gazette: Rats spotted near Glebe Gardens

However, residents - who believe the problem stems from a rat nest in Glebe Gardens - say the action taken has not been enough and it has become a “huge environmental health hazard”.

Liz Wheeler, of Church Square, in Basingstoke town centre, said: “We need recognition from the council of the scale of this matter – rats proliferate at a frightening speed and this is a period of high breeding for them.

“We need support from specialist pest control companies regulated and audited by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) and financial support from the body responsible for our public health, namely our local council. We must continue to lobby for this and elevate this situation to the highest levels.”

Ms Wheeler said the council has put out “low grade” bait in Glebe Gardens but will not agree that the rats are living and breeding in the park.

Residents have since taken photographic evidence of rats in the park and documented sightings of them in the area.

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This includes rats spotted in daylight and one seen inside the lounge of a resident’s home, which emerged from behind her television as she was watching a programme before escaping out of a garden door.

Ms Wheeler said: “The park provides the ideal nesting home for rats with decaying leaves, rotting wood from the trees, shelter in hedgerows which also provides warmth, and abundance of food in the waste bins.”

She added: “It is clear this remains a huge issue for all users of the park, and us Church Square and Elbow Corner residents. This is and has been for some time, a matter of public health for all of us and for all users of the park.”

There are also concerns that the problem may be spreading to other areas of Basingstoke close to the town centre such as Oakridge, where some residents told the Gazette they have seen an increase in rats in the area.

According to pest control experts Rentokil, one pair of rats could produce half a billion descendants in just three years if left unchecked.

Rat pregnancy lasts 21-23 days, with a female rat typically birthing six litters per year, consisting of five to 10 pups.

Rats reach sexual maturity after nine weeks, meaning that a population can swell from two rats to around 1,250 in one year, with the potential to grow exponentially.

The rodents need to be controlled because they can transmit many diseases to humans, including salmonella and Weil’s disease; they contaminate food and food preparation surfaces; and cause damage by gnawing woodwork, water pipes and electric cables which can cause house fires.

Weil’s disease is a serious and sometimes fatal infection that is transmitted to humans by contact with urine from infected rats. It can get into the human body through cuts and scratches and through the lining of the mouth and eyes after contact with infected urine or contaminated water.

The borough council previously said it had seen evidence of rats in the area and is working with residents to tackle the issues “as far as we practically can”.

It said some of the hotspot burrows and nests were being treated with bait boxes.

A spokesperson said: “We will be monitoring the situation and treating further areas as needed.”

The borough council has been asked for an updated comment and information.