RATS are being flushed out of drains by heavy rainfall at a family park, prompting warnings not to leave litter to encourage the vermin.

With lakes at Northlands Park, Basildon, being rainwater-fed, heavy showers have overflowed the drainage system surrounding the park - meaning rats have been flushed out into the lake.

It comes after the Echo revealed a dedicated £70,000 rat catcher would be rolled out across Basildon to clamp down on the booming rat population.

Basildon Council says a rat catcher has now been setting traps.

Council bosses have also warned park users about dropping food, after fears the vermin could put off visitors.

Kevin Blake, deputy leader of the Absolute Independent Group, says the rat catcher has been busy laying traps over the last week.

He said: “The idea was initially to have someone go round and catch rats - but for the most part of the year they stay in drains.

“They’re being flushed out by the rain, so someone is setting traps in every park. I saw them at Northlands myself.

“It then means the rat catcher can be used as and when they’re needed rather than on a permanent basis - with the £70,000 covering their wage along with the costs of their vehicle, how much it will take to get between locations, the traps and that sort of thing.”

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Kerry Smith, former deputy leader of Basildon Council, has urged park users to avoid dropping food and litter on the floor - fearing the issue of rats could deter visitors returning to the town’s nature spots.

Mr Smith added: “They will eat anything that’s edible, and can be dirty and carry disease.

“We want people to keep using the parks, they were so popular in lockdown.”

A Basildon Council spokesman, said: “We are taking immediate action to solve the problem in Northlands Park. All our lakes are rainwater fed and so usually our lakes are free of rats.

“Heavy rain in recent days has overflowed the drainage system surrounding Northlands Park and has meant that rats have been flushed out into the lake.”