A RAT invasion has become so bad in an area of Inverness that some residents are afraid to go out at night in case they come across the scuttling vermin.
Rats and mice are plaguing people in the Merkinch area and a derelict old shed which was once a thriving cobblers shop is suspected to be the source of the vermin.
Ricky Walker (51), whose house adjoins the rotting shed in Upper Kessock Street, said: “I could hear the rats and mice scratching between my house and the old shed when I was in bed.
“It got so bad I moved my bed away from the wall. The shed needs to be removed, but it is privately owned and I don’t think Highland Council can take action without contacting the owner.
“I’ve heard also that there is quite a plague of rats round about the Brown Street area off Grant Street.”
Liz Young, who lives just along from the former cobblers, is treasurer of Merkinch Community Council and raised the rat problem at a recent meeting.
She said: “One man told me that his mother will not go out at night because rats are running about. People in the area have been coming to me complaining about the rats.
“Something has got to be done about it. That old shed has to go.
“There is a play area nearby and the rats could be fouling there, so goodness knows what diseases the wee ones might pick up.
“The health and safety of local people has got to be considered.”
Merkinch News and Views, the community council newsletter, has pleaded with residents to “take responsibility for appropriate and correct collection and disposal of their rubbish”.
Community council chairwoman Dell McClurg agreed that large items of old furniture left in gardens could attract vermin but said that not everyone could afford the charge for bulky uplifts – £20.02 for up to three items and £40.05 for up to six items.
She added: “The community council has funded skips for people to put large items in for free, but there are so many rules and regulations about what can and cannot be put in the skips that Highland Council doesn’t seem too keen on us doing that, but it is something we might look at again.”
In response to rat reports, Highland Council members Richard Laird and Janet Campbell recently walked around the area with council housing officials.
He said: “The old cobblers’ shop is basically a large shed and neighbours are saying that rats are living there. We also had a look at the bin situation to see if there could be any improvements.
“I understand the officials will be trying to contact the shed owner to see if it can be removed.”The Highland News asked the council to confirm what it was doing to tackle the situation, but it failed to respond before we went to press.