Pests in a Sunderland park are causing concern after large rats were spotted scuttling along its pathways.
Sunderland’s Liberal Democrats have called for more to be done to tackle the problem after a number of rodents were seen in Barnes Park.
However, council chiefs say the rat problem is no more prevalent than can be expected for a city of Sunderland’s size.
Lib Dem campaigner, Tim Ellis, said three large rats spotted running along paths by the park’s lake and burn – just metres away from the children’s play area – were unusually large and likely to be brown rats, not the smaller and less harmful water rats.
Mr Ellis said: “I thoroughly enjoy my runs through Barnes Park -–it is a great local amenity and is rightly popular with local residents.
“There are also many parents with young children, who come to enjoy the peace and quiet of the park.
“It therefore, must be frightening for these parents with young children to see rats here, especially when they are metres away from the play area. I certainly wouldn’t want a rat running around my feet when I’m in my running shorts.
“I am calling on the council to investigate this problem in Barnes Park, and if necessary, send in pest control so that the problem can be dealt with properly, but humanely.”
Councillor Stephen O’Brien, Lib Dem Councillor for Grindon and Thorney Close, whose ward includes much of Barnes Park added: “Our Labour-run council needs to take the rat problem in our city much more seriously.
“In January this year, the Liberal Democrats called for the return of free pest-control services, and to use stronger, more effective poisons, as there are rumours of rats becoming resistant to the poison that the council currently uses.
But deputy leader of the council, Coun Michael Mordey, said: “Sunderland does not have a rat problem out beyond what you would expect for a city of our size.
“The figures repeatedly quoted by the Lib Dems are years out of date and relate to the last year the council offered a free service. All of this was pointed out in Full Council when the issue was debated months ago.
“The council does undertake routine preventative work in parks in order to suppress the presence of rats.
“Yet, rat sightings can be influenced by a range of factors including weather conditions, such as cold snaps, warm spells or heavy rain.”