THEY have been spotted running along cars, sitting in driveways and sauntering through the streets during the day – now residents on a housing estate say a rat infestation is out of control.

People living in the Sherburn Road Estate in Durham say they have been reporting problems with rats for months but have not been able to curb the numbers of the rodents.

Paula Anderson, of Oswald Close, said: “It’s been going on in the next street for the last few months and now they’re coming in our street. They’re really big as well.

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“They even come out in the daylight. They walk straight past and they’re not bothered. Half the people in the close have reported it.

“Something needs to be done now because it’s out of control and it’s been going on for too long. I’ve got kids and I’m frightened to let them out.”

The problem has affected Oswald Close, Hilda Close, Cuthbert Close and Bede Avenue.

Kathleen Gillespie, who lives in Cuthbert Avenue, said: “I’ve been putting down rat poison but they keep coming back. My niece in Hilda Close had one walking along the counter in the kitchen chewing on the cereal boxes.

“We’ve been catching them every two or three nights.

“Some people are killing them and chucking them in the middle of the street. It’s horrible.”

There have also been reports of rats getting trapped in car engines, eating children’s toy, chewing through paddling pools and of dead ones being dumped in the local play park.

Mum of two Wendy Craggs, of Oswald Drive, said: “We see them every day: they run everywhere. It’s disgusting. I’ve had to chuck a big bag of toys.”

She added: “I saw a big one and I thought it was a dog.”

The problem has been reported to housing association Four Housing and Durham County Council but residents say they are being sent round in circles trying to get something done.

Ms Anderson added: “Four Housing said to go to the council. The council said if they had £40 from the whole street they would get environmental health out.

“I don’t see why we should all pay £40 for something that’s in the streets and not the houses.”

In Durham, the council responded to 1,726 reports of rats last year.

Ian Hoult, Durham County Council’s neighbourhood protection manager, said: “We can confirm we have received a complaint relating to this matter, and Environmental Health Officers will be visiting the area on Friday to investigate and suggest what course of action, if any, needs to be undertaken.

“We offer a pest control service, which costs £40 per treatment. This is a subsidised treatment for rats.

“This covers subsequent visits and materials for most common pests”.

The council says if the source of the problem is on council-owned land it will treat the problem, but if the rats are coming from the sewers it will be down to Northumbria Water and if the source of the problem comes from individual houses it would be the responsibility of the property owner or landlord.

Last year, Durham County Council responded to 1,726 reporters of rats across the county.

Recent figures compiled by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) found the number of pest reports responded to by council’s nationally fell by 22 per cent last year.

Since 2012, the BPCA found staffing levels in pest control teams have dropped by almost 25 per cent and response rates by 33 per cent.

Dee Ward-Thompson, BPCA technical manager, said: “Many councils who once provided pest control free of charge have now either introduced charges or done away with their service altogether in a bid to balance the books.

“And our survey reveals many of those still offering a service are responding to significantly fewer reports due to a lack of resources, which is quite alarming.

“That has already had a significant impact on the pest population, according to our members, and the problem is only likely to get worse.

“We want to ensure this does not have an impact on public health and that short-term budget cuts don’t result in higher costs further down the line.”