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Rat run – debris by disused toilet block and claims that a woman has been feeding rats have led to a serious vermin problem in Nairn harbour

By Donald Wilson

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Helena Harcourt at the bushes where she saw a woman feeding the rats.
Helena Harcourt at the bushes where she saw a woman feeding the rats.

Debris at the entrance to a disused toilet block and claims of a woman feeding rats are contributing to a serious vermin problem at Nairn harbour, it has been claimed.

Emboldened rodents have been seen crossing the road from their natural habitat in holes in the old harbour wall at the riverside to approach nearby houses.

Now resident Ali Nicol has called on Highland Council to clean up the disused toilets opposite his house, which he insists is part of the problem.

“The toilets have been closed since 2018, but cars stop there regularly and people go in the entrance behind the screen fencing only to find they are locked,” he said.

“I don’t go looking but it’s clear some people are going in there and doing their business, and I don’t mean just urinating.

“It’s disgusting for residents and for the town as a tourist resort.

“The council say they checked it and there’s no evidence of human waste, but I regularly see rats going in there and I have seen them crossing the road towards properties here in Harbour Street.

“It’s appalling that these toilets are closed.

“I’ve seen about a dozen cars a day, even in winter, stopping there to use the loos then find they are closed.

“If they aren’t going to reopen they should put a gate across the entrance.”

Helena Harcourt, who lives in nearby Park Street, regularly walks her dog around the harbour and seafront and says she too is aware of the growing problem.

“I was passing the bushes behind the car wash and there was this woman feeding the rats,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“She was using bird food and there were eight rats running around her feet. She was looking at them saying ‘aren’t they beautiful?’.

“I was shocked and told her she shouldn’t be doing that, but there was a man with her and he said ‘they’re all God’s creatures’.

“I decided to walk away before I got angry.”

Another local resident, Jimmy Mackintosh (64), said he witnessed one rat cross the road and scratch on the door of a house in Harbour Street in broad daylight.

“I walk here regularly and you see them among the bushes and running on the flood wall,” he said.

“But this one went right across Harbour Street, through the gate and was scratching at the bottom of the door.

“If someone had opened it they would have got a heck of a fright.”

Another passer-by said she saw two old ladies sitting at a bench as two rats ran past their feet.

“I never said anything because I didn’t want to alarm them,” she said.

Chairman of Highland Council’s Nairn area committee, Councillor Tom Heggie, said: “Local members have been in discussion with officers from Highland Council and are presently assessing the costing and viability of reopening the toilets in Harbour Street.

“We are hoping for a speedy response to our request for detailed information to enable us to come to an informed decision going forward.

“In the meantime, council staff will be cleaning up around the toilets where an accumulation of dead leaves etc has possibly provided an environment where vermin may thrive.

“I would reiterate that members of the public should not feed the rats nor leave scraps of food around, which would also encourage vermin.

“Our ward manager has been working proactively for a number of weeks to seek mitigation of the situation, and work is ongoing.”

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