The rat capital of mid-Norfolk has been revealed. 

A Freedom of Information request has shown Thetford has had more reports of rats than any other town or village in Breckland in 2023.

The Breckland Council data shows there had been a total of 67 rat sightings reported between the start of the year and November 20. A total of 26 were in Thetford, while 17 were in Dereham and six were in Swaffham. 

Other places with rat sightings include Garvestone, Shipdham and Sporle, each with two, and Great Dunham, Little Dunham and Harling, each with one. 

A total of 88 rat sightings were reported across Breckland in 2022.

Mike Brindle, Breckland labour councillor for Thetford, said he was not surprised to hear the town had the highest number of reports: “We are the biggest (town) in the district."

Breckland does not have a pest control team, and people in the district take reports directly to the council.

Complaints are responded to and where possible or identified as a potential risk, are followed up by the environmental protection team.

There was only one notice served for rats and that was in 2020 which was resolved formally. It happened in Dereham on October 9, and a notice from under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 was served.

In the same year, 95 sighting reports were made. In 2021, 69 reports were made, while it went up to 88 in 2022 - since 2019, Breckland has received 294 reports.

Dereham Times: Mike Brindle, Breckland and Thetford Town councillorMike Brindle, Breckland and Thetford Town councillor (Image: Corinne Brindle)

The FOI reveals that Breckland as a whole is bucking a rising trend of rat complaints across the country with this year's decline.

The BBC reported an increased rate, with the Housing Ombudsman for England reporting a tenfold rise in rat complaints in the past four years, and landlords are failing to resolve increasing numbers of complaints about rats in rental properties.

Mr Brindle said he is concerned about renters now facing “huge bills for something they cannot control" and wants Breckland to step up.

“I would like Breckland to put pressure on central government to help fund dealing with rats and other pests in Thetford, and across the district. I do not want people to feel deserted, hearing that there are no funds to support them.

Dereham Times: 67 reports of pest sightings were made from January 1, 2023, up until November 2067 reports of pest sightings were made from January 1, 2023, up until November 20 (Image: Newsquest)

“I can see people having to leave their homes and give up supporting charities because they have to deal with their issues.

“We need councils to put their hands up and be responsible. We want people to feel there is a support system across Breckland. We want to work along with Breckland’s officers and the cabinet to say, ‘We accept any idea, but we don't want a do-nothing attitude, this is not the time to sit on our hands.”

It seems the hot weather is the biggest spike, with the busiest months since 2019 being June (46) and July (47). The month with the lowest reports is March, with only 14.

Dereham Times: Hugh King, mayor of DerehamHugh King, mayor of Dereham (Image: Royal British Legion)

Hugh King, mayor of Dereham, said: “Unfortunately rats are ever present, 17 rat reports seem like a reassuringly low number and we are a long way off requiring any Hamelin scale interventions. It is of course all of our responsibilities to keep the numbers low by ensuring food isn’t available for rats.

“One area we can all be mindful of is winter bird feeding, while it is a good thing to feed the birds during the winter months, we should all be very careful of the food being dropped or left so that rats can gain access.”

Between April 2019 and December 2022, Thetford (118) and Dereham (67) had the most sightings reported as well - these included rats, mice, and flies.