‘RATS the size of rabbits’ have infested parts of Andover, prompting authorities to spend thousands of pounds in an attempt to deal with the prodigious pests.

The Advertiser can reveal that authorities such as Andover Town Council and Test Valley Borough Council have joined forces in attempt to tackle the rampant rodents, with the former splashing out over £9,500 in pest control services since January alone.

The town council has hired out Ludgershall-based MB Pest Services to carry out the work at their seven allotment plots across Andover.

The sites have become “hotspots” due to the abundance of food and suitable habitats, with Vigo Road described as the worst of the bunch.

Andover Town Council Clerk, Wendy Coulter, is one of those involved in the project to control the vermin.

She told the Advertiser: “Andover has a major major problem with rats full stop. “It has become a much much bigger problem than we thought.

“Some of the rats we found were the size of rabbits and they were everywhere.

“They were absolutely enormous.

“I’ve had horses my entire life and because of the feed you get rats but I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It was revolting.”

Asked how the council are dealing with the problem, she said: “We got a specialist rat catcher in from January to really target the rats on all seven allotment sites. But there is a rat problem across the town. ‘We have to do something’

“We’ve been working with environmental services at Test Valley Borough Council and they’ve given their advice.

“We’ve all realised we have got to do something because we can’t carry on spending the money that we are currently spending.”

Last year a Freedom of Information request by the British Pest Control Association revealed that TVBC ranked 147th worst for the number of pest call outs in the 2013-14 financial year, compared to 407 local authority areas across the country.

The shock figures also showed that 7.82 call outs were made to TVBC per 1000 residents in that same period, compared to just 2.49 in Basingstoke and 5.34 in Southampton.

However the figure was an improvement on the previous financial year, when 9.53 call outs were made per 1000 residents in the borough.

Portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, councillor Sandra Hawke, said: “Test Valley Borough Council has not seen a significant increase in the number of call outs it has received relating to rats, though it has been working with Andover Town Council to provide advice and support to try to resolve the problems around the allotments.

“It is inevitable that a greater number of rats will be found close to food sources and in and around town centres.

“However, there are steps that residents can take to prevent rat infestations, including only putting out a small amount of bird feed at a time and keeping the area beneath bird feeders clear of excess food.

“We would also ask residents to avoid leaving waste food outside overnight, keep all household rubbish in bins with close fitting lids, avoid allowing gardens to become overgrown or for rubbish to pile up and ensure that all broken or damaged drains are repaired as soon as possible.

“If residents find evidence of rats then we would encourage them to contact the council as soon as possible, as infestations can escalate quickly if left untreated.”

What do you think? Have you experienced a rat problem in Andover? Please email newsdesk@andoveradvertiser.co.uk