A HAMPSHIRE community is urging for a cull after a rat infestation has made their lives a misery.

The vermin have been spotted throughout Valley Park’s woodland and parks and near schools.

Some residents have taken the matter into their own hands and put down poison and traps but the population keeps growing.

But now they have had enough and are urging Test Valley Borough Council to get rid of the rodents.

Councillor Alan Dowden, ward councillor for Valley Park, said he has been calling for the council to step in for around two years and has received hundreds of complaints about the infestation.

He said: “I’m generally worried about children with rats because I know there are diseases rats can give through their urine and there are three nurseries in Valley Park and two primary schools.

“I know that some people are trying to kill them themselves and that’s dangerous. It could be that pets get killed as a result of rats.

“Test Valley should concentrate in a big way because someone’s going to get into trouble if a child gets a disease from one and we have a high percentage of youngsters here.

“It’s got to be a concerted effort. There needs to be a culling of them because they breed so quickly and as we get more mild winters it’s getting worse.”

Residents say they see the creatures daily.

Maggie Poland, 68, vice chair of children’s charity Romsey Opportunity Group, from Tyne Close, Valley Park, said: “I’ve lived here 23 years and I have never seen rats like this. In the past you occasionally saw one but I have never seen as many as this year.

“You worry about sitting outside or leaving the back door open.

“I’m worried they might come into my house. I think a lot of people are concerned about that.”

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) said the county’s rat population has been increasing because of warm winters and a reduction in habitats for other wildlife.

Graham Roberts from HIWWT said: “Domestic cats, foxes, owls, weasels and stoats will all happily kill rats. Sadly many urban areas have left little space for natural wildlife so rat numbers can increase very quickly.

“The one very real risk to human health is the disease Leptospirosis which is transmitted through rat’s urine. This can be potentially fatal.”

A Test Valley Borough Council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the issue of rats in Valley Park and have subsequently investigated. Bait has been laid in areas where we are permitted to do so, taking into account the need to protect other wildlife and watercourses. We will continue to investigate and monitor the situation.”