Five complaints about rat infestations every day in Portsmouth

COMMON Rats on the streets of Hampshire
COMMON Rats on the streets of Hampshire
The boardwalks at Port Solent this evening, as visitors enjoyed the Festival of Christmas

Festival of Christmas draws hundreds of shoppers and traders to Port Solent

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RAT catchers are having to deal with up to five calls a day from Portsmouth residents complaining about rodents, figures have revealed.

Last year Portsmouth City Council received 1,664 rat-related calls.

Figures obtained by The News show that since January 2009 the authority has received a total of 3,981 calls relating to the vermin.

But environmental health officials say the figures are hardly surprising as Portsmouth is one of the most densely-populated cities in Europe and is a magnet for rodents.

Richard Lee, environmental protection manager, said: ‘I’m not surprised by the number of rat enquiries – Portsmouth is an extremely densely- populated city, which obviously increases the likelihood of pests.

‘Large and small-scale developments disturb habits and can cause rats to find homes elsewhere.

‘Our Victorian sewerage system also has many places where rats can escape and most of the pipes are made of pitch fibre, which is easily damaged, and again rats find their way out.

‘Another issue is where there are people, there’s food, and that’s an obvious attraction.

‘Rats are more common than people think and have a very keen sense of smell, they hunt out the tiniest morsel. Treatments are effective, but you can’t eradicate them from the city.’

The figures have been revealed following a Freedom of Information request from The News, which also gave a breakdown of rat problems in Fareham, Gosport and Havant.

Figures show that since January 2009, Gosport Borough Council has received 1,272 rodent-related calls.

Fareham Road had the highest number of calls with 35 and Brockhurst Road came second with 32.

Ian Rickman, head of environmental health for both Fareham and Gosport councils, said: ‘Properties in Brockhurst Road are old and the condition of them aren’t as great as new homes. It is also because both streets are very long.’

Fareham Borough Council saw an increase in rat treatment requests. There were 700 calls last year, compared to 671 in 2009.

Officials say if environmental health officers cannot prove what type of rodent it is during their investigations, the complaint is recorded as a rat, which may explain the increase.

Havant Borough Council received 3,716 rat complaints since January 2009. A spokeswoman said the high number is because of the free pest assistance offered by the council.

GIANT BREED

PORTSMOUTH was home to one of the largest rats ever seen, measuring 2ft. The super-sized rodent was found under the floorboards of a Southsea home in August last year by Lee Marshfield, of Contract Killers.

The rat had been feasting on food falling through gaps and weighed more than a bag of sugar.