A PROGRAMME of work is underway to tackle an infestation of rats in Hattersley.
And the situation became so serious that Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, was asked to intervene.
After the problem went viral on social media, Tameside Council promised to act swiftly and decisively to tackle the problem, the severity of which was unknown to them as they claimed they had received only two complaints.
And that was also the case with Hattersley councillors as Jacqueline Owen confirmed she had received no complaints from residents and Janet Cooper only one.
“Lockdown has meant we have been unable to hold our usual surgeries where I would have expected people to come with such issues,” explained Cllr Owen.
The Hattersley Community Group contained posts from many residents who had seen rats in their homes, gardens and on the streets. They claim the whole estate is “over-run” with rodents, a problem that has existed since the first lockdown in March and which recently reached breaking point.
Resident Caroline Lomax drafted a letter for residents to send to Mr Reynolds which also voiced concerns about residents being asked to foot an £80 bill for pest control officers to visit homes.
The letter referred to the diseases carried by rats and the risk to public health and damage to property with rats reported in lofts, wall cavities, under floors and chewing through wires.
And Caroline added it was a much wider issue that pest control officers visiting the odd home.
She wrote: “Any residents who have been in touch with the council have been advised to contact pest control at a cost of £80 which a lot of people simply cannot afford. If the odd house gets pest control, this will not eradicate the issue.
“I think given the seriousness of this issue and the hazard to human health that the council should be addressing this as a serious concern and carrying out measures to rectify the situation.”
Caroline referred to fly-tipping in Hattersley, particularly on the old precinct site around Beaufort Road and Hattersley Road East, the old subway and around the valley area on Clough End Road.
“I believe this to be part of the wider issue which also needs addressing, along with street cleaning of rubbish regularly, and shops/takeaways taking some responsibility,” she wrote.
Caroline believes much of the fly-tipping is carried out by outsiders citing a letter with a Middleton address found at one illegal dump.
“We are quite rural and there is lots of green space and it is a case of pay a man in a van and he drives to the area to fly-tip,” she explained.
She added shops and businesses also need to take responsibility for ensuring litter and waste is disposed of and does not attract vermin.
Caroline disputes Tameside Council’s claim they had received only two complaints about rats.
She said: “I know the figure is more than that. When people have been told they would have to pay £80 they have often replied they did not have the money.
“That was the end of the call and therefore I believe it was not logged.”
Dylan Longmate, who runs the Facebook group, said he first noticed the issue at the beginning of lockdown in March when he discovered rats in his garden.
He posted a message and said within an hour more than 100 people had commented with similar experiences.
Dylan said there has been a lot of building work taking place on the estate which remains ongoing.
“This has disturbed the land and taken away their habitat. The rats have been forced to move and feed off what they can find,” he explained.
Dylan praised Tameside Council for the prompt action taken this week to tackle the problems as they baited sewers and other non-public places.
He said: “I went to see the workmen and they asked if people wanted them to put bait boxes at their homes free of charge.
“I posted it on our Facebook page and had 42 messages with requests that day.”
Dylan and Caroline both praised the community spirit on the estate as residents have rallied around to support one another and tackle the issue.
And in the wake of the fly-tipping, Dylan has organised a community litter pick on Saturday, December 5 at 10am from St Barnabas Church.
“Judging by the response, we are going to have a really good turnout. We have a great community spirit and there are lots of positive things happening on the estate,” he said.
Mr Reynolds said: “I’ve been in touch with the council who have already treated the sewers but will have more teams out to ensure the problem is eradicated.
“They also urge residents to dispose of waste responsibly to ensure the problem is tackled together.”
A Tameside Council spokesperson said: “We have received only two complaints on this issue but have been working hard to eradicate the problem on the estate, including carrying out a sewer baiting programme.
“We are putting together a full on the ground response following the concerns being raised and will do whatever it takes to resolve the problem.
“If residents have any individual concerns, they can contact our call centre on 0161 342 8355 to arrange a survey.
“We need the local community to work with us on tackling this by ensuring their waste is disposed of responsibly, to help eradicate the problem.
“We have teams out every day clearing and investigating fly-tipping and taking enforcement action.
“Fly tipping is illegal and can be hazardous, as well as it being extremely expensive for the council, on limited resources, to clear waste dumped by others. To report illegal waste disposal or fly-tipping in Tameside please visit www.tameside.gov.uk/reportit or call 0161 342 8355.”