IT MAY have been named the best place in the country to live, but one Hampshire community is also a top spot for attracting... rats.
Valley Park has been named the most desirable location in England and Wales in a survey, but 24 hours later the Daily Echo can reveal it has a rat infestation.
Now residents are demanding action, saying the infestation has made their lives a misery.
Some have taken the matter into their own hands and have put down poison and traps, but the population keeps expanding throughout Valley Park’s woodland and parks and near schools.
But now residents have had enough and are urging Test Valley Borough Council to take action.
This comes after research by a national newspaper rated the community top out of 7,137 based on its low crime, high earnings, rate of home ownership and residents’ health.
Local councillor Alan Dowden said he has received hundreds of complaints about the infestation.
He said: “I’m worried about children, 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 people’s pets get killed as a result of rats.
“Someone’s going to get into trouble if a child gets a disease from one of these rats 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 for 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 Lep-tospirosis which is transmitted through rat’s urine.
“This disease can be potentially fatal.”
Test Valley Borough Council were unavailable to comment.
Valley Park was named as the country’s top spot after research looked at 7,137 areas across England and Wales, examining statistics on crime, household income, health, home ownership, the proportion of residents who are earning.
That followed statistics from Public Health England which revealed that people living in Valley Park have the highest life expectancy locally, with women expected to live to 89.3 and men to 84.7 – compared to 83.7 for women and 80.2 for men in Hampshire.