A “PLAGUE” of rats demolishing crops on Teesside has left parish councillors scratching their heads. 

Rodents have given gardeners the runaround at Eaglescliffe village allotments at the top of Butts Lane.

But the cause of the infestation is as yet unknown. 

Meanwhile, there were fears some green-fingered folk were considering throwing in the towel at a parish council meeting on Thursday night (December 5). 

Chairwoman Cllr Maureen Rigg said: “The rats are demolishing the crops at a phenomenal rate. 

“My husband is an allotment holder and when he came home the other day he was really upset because the work he’d put in.

“That particular day there were two complete rows of parsnips which had just gone.”

Egglescliffe and Eaglescliffe Parish Council looks after the allotments in the village as well as gardens at Eliffs Mill, off the A67. 

Like many other smaller councils on Teesside, it sets rents and looks after their maintenance.

Clerk Carole Whitehead told councillors a visit from Stockton Council’s pest control team booked in for Friday (December 6) with an update on a plan of action due to come next week.  

But Cllr Rigg feared some allotment holders were wondering whether it was worth paying up due to the loss of their fruit and veg. 

In the meantime, Cllr Reg Rowlinson believed there could be another solution.

He added: “I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a member of the gun club. I wonder if it would be alright for members of the gun club to go down and shoot the rats?

“He did say that it was a matter which would have to be considered by police.”

There are more than 300,000 council-owned allotments in the UK.

The 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act placed a duty on local authorities to provide sufficient allotments, according to demand. 

At its peak, there were about 1.5m allotments in use in the UK in the early 19th century. 

Cllr Geoff Colling said there was a man who used to come out to shoot rats early in the morning in Eaglescliffe when there was nobody about.

But Cllr Katherine Webster didn’t like the idea of gunning troublesome rodents down. 

Members also heard a “feral cat” tended to deal with any rodent troubles at Eliff Mill.

After the meeting, Cllr Rigg said the rat problem’s scale this year was a complete mystery to her. 

She added: “For reasons best known to the Pied Piper, we’ve got what amounts to a plague of rats. 

“They’re devouring crops and people are reporting seeing them at all times of the day.”

Rounding off the meeting, Mrs Whitehead was hopeful poison put down would start to kill off the rodents soon.