RATS have been infesting the homes of residents living near a Boscombe children’s centre.

Beleaguered homeowners and tenants say it is the “worst infestation” they have ever had in the Ashley Close area.

One couple returned from holiday recently to find rats in their home, while another resident said she is still trying to oust rodents from her rented property.

Meanwhile, traps were set outside a council-owned children’s centre, which provides services for families with children under five years old.

They were removed after three weeks, BCP Council said, after "no evidence of rats" was found.

However, Amanda Cuffley, who lives nearby, said she had been kept awake at night by rats.

“I’ve been so stressed. The rats got in underneath the roof tiles and have eaten all my loft insulation.

“I can hear them scratching and running up and down the drainpipes. They can literally eat their way through concrete.

“One evening I was in my sitting room watching TV and I could hear scratching. The rats were coming up between the cavity wall and scuttling above my ceiling. They were trying to scratch a hole in the ceiling. I screamed to my son. Since then I’ve been scared they will come out at night while I’m asleep.”

Amanda said she had spent £70 on rat poison and believes it even made her ill at one point. While some of the rats have been dealt with, she thinks some are still residing in her roof.

“This is the worst infestation we’ve had. The council needs to take more responsibility for the environment around the area. This problem started outside our premises and now we’re infested.

“There’s been a hole in the road during some roadworks and an overgrown space at the back of our properties by the nursery, which isn’t helping.”

Nathan Davies and his wife, Carolane, are also angry they have not received more help from the council in dealing with the infestation, which is believed to have spread to at least half a dozen properties.

“We returned from holiday to find out we had rats in our house. It made me feel physically sick. The rats had been through our cupboards. We steam cleaned the whole house and threw everything away.

“I wanted to get it sorted out, so I contacted my insurance company and the council. The council will deal with wasps, apparently, but not rats anymore because of cut backs. But they need to notify people that there is a local issue. The rats are running down the street and coming up from the drains.”

Stuart Best, street services manager for BCP Council, said: “Our Bournemouth team provides a rodent pest control service on council-owned land and for council tenants.

“The team do as much as they can to help keep rodent numbers down, whilst it is reported that nationally rodent numbers are on the increase.

"Most problems arise due to the availability of food. It is important that food waste and litter is responsibly managed, and that residents are also mindful that feeding birds and wildlife can also encourage rodents.

"The pest control team are aware that there have been sightings around Ashley Close in Boscombe and are now monitoring the situation.”