A Hampshire hotel has been ordered to pay more than £20,000 in fines and costs after preparing food in rat-infested areas.

The Crown Manor Hotel in Lyndhurst, which twice closed its kitchens after inspectors found evidence of the infestation, admitted five food hygiene offences in a case heard at Southampton Magistrates' Court.

They included two offences of involving the production, processing and distribution of food in areas where there was “an ongoing infestation of rats”.

In a statement issued after the case New Forest District Council said environmental health officers visited the premises after receiving an anonymous complaint about poor hygiene in the kitchen.

“Officers visited The Crown Manor Hotel on October 10 last year and found the kitchen was not adequately pest-proofed.

“Evidence of significant rodent activity was found in the kitchen. Fresh rodent droppings were found underneath and behind equipment, as well as gnawed eggshells and gnawed paper towel.

“Food was not protected against potential contamination. The standard of cleaning and maintenance in the kitchen was also found to be unacceptable.

“As a result of their findings, environmental health officers issued the company with a food hygiene improvement notice, requiring it to implement an effective food safety management system.

“The hotel received a food hygiene rating of 0, the worst rating under the food hygiene rating scheme.”

The statement said the hotel agreed to close the kitchens, which re-opened a few days later after cleaning and pest-roofing had been carried out.

It added: “During routine follow-up checks, environmental health officers found that food was again being prepared in the kitchen, despite fresh evidence of rat activity. The company again agreed to voluntarily close the kitchen until the infestation had been removed.”

Magistrates said the hotel had fallen well short of the hygiene standards expected.

The hotel was fined a total of £16,670 with £4,326 costs.

Councillor Edward Heron, Cabinet member for environment, said: “It is totally unacceptable to allow rats into a food business.

“Environmental health officers took necessary action to protect the health of customers and staff and I am pleased that The Crown Manor House Hotel has responded with improvements and received a food hygiene rating of 4.”