06242017Headline:

Family stranded on Middlesbrough’s Grove Hill estate tell of rat hell in their home

Anthea Aarons, her partner Christopher Sharp and her four kids can do nothing to stop a tide of vermin racing through their house when night falls.

They say they’ve been stuck for three years in the house on Middlesbrough’s Grove Hill estate because of a wrangle over the value of their property between their private landlord and the council.

And until a deal is done, they are living in limbo, with only the scuttling rats for neighbours.

Anthea, 38, says her children Ryan, 13, Jodie, 11, Mac, 10, and Leslie, six, are scared to go to bed each night because they hear rats running around their rooms and even across their beds.

Recently a rat leaped over Anthea’s head from a kitchen work surface as she made a cup of tea. Some have taken up residence in her oven and are inside the walls behind her freezer. They also gnawed through her sofa, leaving it riddled with holes.

Anthea said: “Grove Hill’s become a ghost estate and we’re now surrounded on all sides by empty boarded-up houses as our neighbours have left one by one to go to new homes.

“But we’re stuck here because the landlord is asking more than the council are prepared to pay and, as far as we know, it’s no closer to being sorted out.

“It’s terrifying for the kids because of the rats but also because the empty houses are being torched by kids. It scares me that they might think ours is empty and set it alight as well.”

She and Christopher, 48, have done their best to stop the rats getting in, but nothing works.

Anthea said: “The scuttling starts every night and we can’t keep them out. With so many houses empty the rats have invaded them and ours is in the middle of a street of boarded-up properties so they invade us too. I can hear them everywhere.

“They’re even running around in the bottom of my oven, so obviously we don’t use it any more. Rats carry diseases and I’m worried for our health.”

The family could be found a new home by the council but if they move without an agreement being reached over their existing property, they do not get a £4,700 relocation package.

A £115m scheme was announced by Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon four years ago to revamp Grove Hill but, while a small number of homes have been built, the regeneration plans stalled when the recession bit. Now a new £5.5m fund will free up resources to invest in the ailing area and there are hopes to attract a further £60m.

A Middlesbrough Council spokesman said: “We are endeavouring to progress the regeneration of Grove Hill as quickly as possible, and with the least possible inconvenience to those being relocated. Only a small number of tenants remain in The Vale, and work is ongoing to reach agreement over the purchase of the last properties. Resources are available to acquire the property and we will pay full market value, but to date we have been unable to reach agreement with the landlord, and we appreciate the tenants’ frustration caused by this delay.

“However if the tenants move before a formal agreement is reached with their landlord, they will not qualify for home loss compensation. In the meantime, officers from our Public Protection section will visit the tenants to assess the vermin situation and take any appropriate action.”

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