HEAVY rain and warm weather have caused a surge of rats to infest homes across Cheltenham.
Thousands of the rodents are building nests close to properties in some of the classiest areas of the town, a pest control expert has warned.
And the problem is getting worse, with some residents now having as many as 600 rats within 20 foot of their homes.
Recent summer rain has been blamed for the sudden increase in the number, with many trying to escape rising water levels.
Phil John.has blamed the recent floods for flushing out the rats and forcing them to find new homes. And he warned that, as developers tried to find new spots to build homes, the situation was likely to get worse.
He claimed that rats were frequently as close as just 6ft away from a residential home, depending on the area.
Mr John, who has worked as a gamekeeper and Government wildlife officer before becoming a pest controller, said he had been called to properties across Cheltenham.
Recent cases have seen him travel to Prestbury, Charlton Kings and Bishop’s Cleeve.
He said: “Rats are never going to be that far away from anyone. I have been to homes where there have been between 400 and 600 rats.
“I have been to deal with cases all around Cheltenham – Bath Road, London Road, The Reddings.
“I have got more rat work now than a few years ago. The councils used to do more but now they have either cut back or have stopped altogether.
“The problem has got worse since the flooding, when we have seen the population of rats increase. Rats have come up from the lower ground and have not gone back.”
He warned that, when old buildings were converted or when farmland was used for development, the rats already living on the land would simply stay on – infesting any new homes constructed on the spot.
“When they start building on land like at Oakley or in Bishop’s Cleeve, there is nowhere for the animals to go,” said Mr John.
“Instead, people are simply creating the perfect habitat for them to breed and survive.”
With the high birth rate, one rat can multiply into 200 individuals within a year.
Barbara Exley, head of public protection for Cheltenham Borough Council, conceded the rodent population was on the rise.
“The general trend is that there are more rats across the country,” she said.
“However in Cheltenham the number of requests for our service is steady, although this does fluctuate depending on the time of year.”
Tewkesbury Borough Council now uses outside contractors to deal with any requests for pest control.
Residential services manager David Steels said: “We have only had one query about rats since the heavy rain, which is typical for this period.
“If someone has a problem, we advise to employ a pest control contractor.”
If you have a rats in your home visit www.ratdetection.com for free information and advice