IT IS an historic cathedral city with some of the highest house prices in the country.

But it seems that it’s not only humans that want to move to Winchester – as figures reveal it is also the rat capital of the south-east.

Research by the British Pest Control Association revealed that the city had the biggest number of pest control call outs for the rodents in the region.

Winchester City Council received 2,099 requests to get rid of the pests – 18 for every 1,000 people who live in the area – meaning it also had the highest proportion of call-outs in the south-east and the second highest in England.

Meanwhile, Southampton ranked highest in the region for call-outs to deal with bed bugs, which are parasitic biting insects that feed on human blood.

Pest control experts were called out from the council a total of 81 times in 12 months.

Eastleigh also topped the south-east table for call-outs to deal with “other mammals”, including squirrels and moles, with 442 calls over 12 months.

Other areas that scored highly for rat calls were Test Valley Borough Council, who received 1,150 call-outs during the year, and New Forest District Council, who had 855 call-outs.

Pest expert Jerry Hall, owner of Hampshire Pest Control, said: “When I go out on a rat call, I usually see at least three of the following things – compost heaps, which attract rats; decking – because rats can hide under them; and gas barbecues, because rats love to go and tidy up the leftovers; ponds, because they are a good source of water; and bird-feeders, because the rats will eat the bird feed.”

The British Pest Control Association (BPCA), which sent Freedom of Information requests to all councils that deal with pest control in the UK, says it is concerned pest control budgets are being hit.

Chief executive Simon Forrester said: “There may be a number of local factors why a council appears towards the top of one of the lists, but on a national scale the BPCA is concerned that pest control budgets are being hit.

“That may make it harder for councils in England to respond as effectively as they would like, which could have implications for both quality of life and public health.”

It seems that if you want to avoid pests, Fareham is the place to be.

The borough had only 930 total callouts for all pests – ranking it 206th out of the 314 English councils surveyed.