Residents plagued by ‘horrendous’ rat infestations and fly-tipping
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
People living in a seaside community in south Wales are experiencing “worrying issues” with unclean streets and rat infestations.
Urban streets in Port Talbot and Aberavon are constantly plagued with fly-tipping and rats; a problem which has been ongoing for years, according to locals.
A woman who did not want to be named said her daughter lives in Enfield Street, Port Talbot and is “embarrassed” by the problems she is having with rats, which are attracted to bags of rubbish left out on the street.
She said her young grandson was bitten by a rat while sleeping in January 2020 and went to hospital for treatment. “They have now gone and got a snake as it is the only thing that has worked at keeping them at bay.”
The woman said her daughter’s family are on the council’s waiting list to move elsewhere and “have been the past three years with no sign of a property to move to”.
She said the rats have been a problem in multiple properties along Enfield Street “for about four years off and on” and residents suspect they are entering properties through garden drains and then accessing the terraced homes through connected attics.
Plaid Cymru councillor Nigel Hunt said street care is “among the most consistent and worrying issues” in the Old Aberavon area.
He said pest control issues “escalated” after Neath Port Talbot Council increased its call out charge in 2019, which the Plaid Cymru group opposed.
“The call outs by residents in not just Aberafan but all the old urban areas have dropped since the crippling pest control charge. This has been a disaster. Sightings of pests as well as infestations have become a profound concern.
“Other factors include that the council have invested millions of pound into its streetcare fleet and many of the vehicles serve 90% of the county well but the old urban areas like Aberafan, Port Talbot, Taibach… with small terraced lanes, have issues with the vehicles.
“Furthermore decisions have been made due to austerity to cutback on Streetcare. The teams that operate are in our opinion excellent but they are too small in number. They are continually fire fighting and their morale must be affected by the task ahead that has echoes of Sisyphus in Ancient Greece who continually had to roll a boulder up a hill.
“The lanes that are not gated are often fly tipped by rogues whom do not just live in the street, but they come from outside the ward and even out of the county. We have witnessed this on numerous occasions.”
Cllr Hunt also said the number of high multiple occupancy (HMO) residences in Aberavon has made the issues worse.
“Guidance on HMO’s clearly states that they lead to a deterioration in streetcare and anti-social behaviour. This is not the interpretation of the planning department and committee who continually approve. We are extremely frustrated with this.”
Another resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said her sister lives in New Street, Aberavon, where residents are leaving rubbish out on the street in bags, which keep attracting rats.
“She is not happy at all… she had a rat under her shed and had to pay £120 for pest control. Her end of the street is spotless but the top is rental flats and it’s really bad.
“I won’t walk my dog up that lane and my sister won’t walk there either as she is terrified of them. And they are huge.
“The rubbish is the issue. My sister had two rats in her garden last summer and had to pay for them to be killed… it was awful.
“I live in a block of flats around the corner and we have no rats because we dispose of food waste correctly. It’s getting so bad that residents are going round cleaning up the lanes.
She also said there are problems with waste management in Fairfield, Port Talbot, which is “full of bin bags”.
“It’s disgusting around here… The smell when you walk past on a warm day is foul. The council will only take three loose bags per house, so the rest get left so some bags have been there for weeks and weeks.”
Local councillor Scott Bamsey said the cost of pest control services is “adding to the problem even more” because many residents cannot afford the fee, which is in excess of £100.
The Plaid Cymru representative said fly-tipping and street cleaning has “always been a problem… especially in Aberavon” because many of the streets feature narrow lanes. “They’re not designed for the modern fleets of bin wagons, which are quite wide.”
He said the council’s streetcare team are “brilliant” and will clean up areas once they are reported but “the odd few bad eggs” continue to fly-tip in the area.
Increased issues with rats have been reported throughout the UK during the pandemic. Pest control inquiries increased by 22% between April and June 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, according to Rentokil.
People living in Ystalyfera recently revealed they have been living with “horrendous” rat infestations in their attics and gardens for years, while a pest control specialist from Bridgend said he received around 50% more calls about rats in the last 12 months.
Out of Wales’ 21 councils, seven do not provide a pest control service, 11 charge residents to treat all pests and three charge for all pests except rats.
A council spokesman said: “Neath Port Talbot Council is consistently the leading authority in Wales for bringing successful fly-tipping prosecutions.”
They said the number of calls the council has received about rodents since the start of the pandemic has increased by 17%, which reflects “a nationwide rise in rat population connected to lockdown and town and city centres being empty”.
The authority has reacted to these with baiting works/treatments as required,” they added. “Accumulations of waste especially food waste and litter can attract rats.
“For the past three years, the council has had a contract with Welsh Water to carry out baiting works to the local sewers and these works are carried out on both a routine and reactive basis if complaints are received of vermin in the area.
“Pest control treatment within the confines of private property/land is a non-statutory function for local authorities and in order to cover the cost of service delivery it was decided to introduce a charge for the service.
“The fees and charges were reviewed in September 2017 in order to lower the subsidy made by the council and a comparison was made with both neighbouring authorities and the charges levied by private contractors to ensure the service charge was competitive. These charges have been subject to annual uplift together with all other council fees and charges.”
The council urges anyone who witnesses fly-tipping to contact the waste enforcement team on 01639 686868 or police (if it occurs outside working hours) on 101.
Residents who spot vermin in a certain area can report it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01639 686868.