Pond is 'the worst I have seen' - GP

Monday 6th September 2021 9:00 am
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RESIDENTS’ "disgust" at the state of Kings Pond prompted councillors to sign off the most drastic action yet to tackle the pond’s rat epidemic.

Alton Town Council’s open spaces committee last Wednesday was presented with an 18-page report on the pond’s various issues, including stinging testimony from neighbouring homeowners and pond users.

And after it was pointed out to members that the council had a legal duty to ensure its land is kept free from rats, councillors agreed to cull the vermin through traps, and to remove their food source.

This will be done by rat trapping, as well as a temporary ban on the feeding of wildfowl by the public at King’s Pond.

Dr David Murdoch, GP and county dragonfly recorder, was among those quoted in the report. He said: "As a parent, I was disgusted by the state of the pond and environs, the worst I have ever seen, even having lived for years in London - and that is really saying something.

"With huge quantities of wildfowl faeces and feathers visible everywhere, and certainly rat droppings there as well, I felt the whole site was unsafe.

"It is disgusting and a health hazard; I would never take my children there in its present state. It is of minimal value for its wildlife."

Another number of neighbours to the pond also complained of rat infestations in their homes, with one claiming a large rat had recently jumped out of their meter box.

Speaking to the Herald after last Wednesday’s meeting, Alton town clerk Leah Coney said the proposal was to "temporarily stop the feeding of wildfowl while we do some rat trapping".

But she added "it wasn’t explicit" how long the ban would be implemented, adding: "It will be kept under review."

She said: "Members were concerned about the number of rats we’ve got at Kings Pond, and there is a lot of food around at the moment. People are turning up, dumping boxes of porridge oats and then driving off again.

"We have a legal obligation as the land owner to control the number of rats, and we’ve tried to do it by asking people politely not to overfeed. But members felt something more needed to be done."

Mrs Coney added the town council was discussing enforcement measures with East Hampshire District Council.

But Labour district councillor for Alton Eastbrooke, Paula Langley, expressed her "shock" at the proposed feeding ban, asking how the council could be certain the feeding of wildfowl was to blame "and not, say, the digging up of the Coors site?"

She added: "This feels like a real blow for residents and I have had many angry and despairing messages from those who attend the pond regularly with their children to feed the ducks."

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