Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Hedge attracts rats, alcoholics and drug users, says publican

Hedge attracts rats, alcoholics and drug users, says publican

A PUB landlord has called for a riverside hedge in Henley to be ripped out to deter rats and stop alcoholics and drug users spoiling the area.

Mark Dunlop, who runs the Angel of the Bridge, says the privet hedge that runs along the rear of Singers Park in Thames Side is “unsightly” and suggested that it is replaced with iron railings.

Henley Town Council, which owns Singers Park, has been trying to solve the rat problem for months.

Mr Dunlop, who has run the neighbouring Brakspear pub for 12 years, said: “There are rats nesting in the brickwork where the hedge is growing, going down to the river adjacent to The Angel.

“They can be seen most days, particularly in the mornings and evenings.

“There are also youths who openly smoke cannabis on a daily basis from morning to night in Singers Park, safe in the knowledge that they will never be challenged. The smell of cannabis can be smelt every day as it wafts through the hedge.

“There is also the issue of the local alcoholics, who also frequent Singers Park most days, drinking on the benches and using The Angel loos as a public convenience.

“The simple solution would be to strip out the unsightly privet hedge and replace it with a wrought iron one. The issues with rats, smokers and drinkers would be solved in an instant as there would be clear and open sight lines through to Singers Park.”

Mr Dunlop pays the town council £950 a year to park two cars and store waste bins on a strip of land between the pub and Singers Park. He said the total he had paid over the years would more than cover the costs of his suggested improvements.

The council has contacted neighbouring businesses to ask them whether they had problems with rats.

The Chocolate Theatre Café said its pest control inspection had been all clear and the Villa Marina restaurant also reported no problems.

Meanwhile, environmental health officers at South Oxfordshire District Council said that its food officers had carried out inspections at premises nearby and not reported any rodent issues.

However, the officers advised against removing the hedge, saying: “We shouldn’t strip the area of vegetation just because rats are in the vicinity.

“It would be just as good to keep them trimmed, especially at the bottom so you can see the ground, as this would create a bit of exposed area that rats are deterred from. Also ensure that the bins are emptied daily so there’s no food left in there overnight, which the rats will certainly exploit.”

The town council has agreed to install two metal bait-safe litter bins at a total cost of £785 which should arrive this month.

The ongoing management of the area was discussed again by the Henley in Bloom committee last week.

Chairman David Eggleton said more people had approached him about the poor condition of the hedge than the rat problem.

He said: “Some businesses want it removed and replaced with another hedge that is environmentally friendly. It is pretty unsightly and it is on one of the main entrances to the town. If you cut all the ivy out and other bits and pieces then you have got no hedge.”

Vice-chairwoman Kellie Hinton said the existing hedge was “twisted and unhealthy” and needed to come out.

She added: “We could plant things there that rats don’t like. There are lots of options and we could make the area a nice place to be.”

Jeanette Cronin, who works at Scott Investment, opposite Singers Park in the Old Rectory, said the rat infestation was large.

She said: “I have seen more rats in the last 18 months than I have since I started at the Old Rectory in 1990. We have 19 rat boxes in our rectory. It is not nice.”

Ilona Livarski, the council’s conservation parks warden, suggested planting silver birch.

The committee agreed to remove the hedge and to investigate environmentally friendly planting to replace it.

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