A WIDOW in her nineties who lives close to an eyesore site that is the subject of council order to rid it of rats has had to cover her windows with wire mesh to keep the vermin out of her home.
Mollie Shanks spoke this week of the measures she has had to take to keep her home free of rats ahead of today’s deadline for the landowners, Inverness-based GSA Property and Business Holdings, to take action against the vermin.
Mrs Shanks, who lives near the former lemonade factory yard behind Dingwall High Street, decided to get a local joiner to do the work as a means of keeping the rats out.
The 97-year-old, who has been widowed for nearly 50 years, is fiercely independent and cares for herself.
She said: “The lemonade factory was empty when I moved in 21 years ago and it’s been a high-class hotel for rats ever since.
“A rat came in my front door so I have to make sure I keep it shut now. I got the windows done for my own safety. I thought I’d feel like a prisoner in my own home but it’s actually fine – the joiner did a good job.”
Friends visit the mother-of-seven regularly and two turned up when the Ross-shire Journal spoke to her earlier this week.
Beryl Thornhill, from Culbokie, said: “I’m worried about her, she’s my friend. That building should be put right, the rats shouldn’t be there – it should not have been left empty.”
Irene Henderson, another friend who lives in Blackwells Street in Dingwall, called for the old factory to be demolished.
“It’s an eyesore,” she said. “The rubbish bins are chock-a-block and overflowing, and that’s what’s attracting the rats.”
Mrs Shanks’s ideal solution for the site is that flats for pensioners should be built on it.
Her son Billy, a self-employed painter and decorator, contacted the Journal after seeing our front page story regarding the issue last week.
He took pictures of food waste lying on bins and described the derelict lemonade factory site as “horrendous”.
“Rats multiply better if they are well fed – it’s a feast for them,” he said.
In his view the site would be well suited to an open town square with seats and planters.
“How good would that be?” he said, as a focal point for Dingwall, perhaps with a regular farmers’ market.
“Dingwall is a market town and we should be building on that.”
Last week the paper reported that residents had contacted councillors to complain about the rats and Highland Council’s environmental health officers had served notice on the landowner to rid the land of rats by August 4.
The story prompted a number of Facebook comments, including from Sara-Lynn Thain, who said: “Hopefully something will now be done about the unsatisfactory condition of this area.
“Highland Council must follow up on any warned sanctions for failure to meet deadlines, although how likely that is I’m not sure.
“This site, along with a few others in Dingwall – most notably the old Ferintosh Business Centre – should never have been allowed to sit this long in such an appalling condition. They are both an embarrassment to the town. The council should have acted long before now.”
A spokesman for GSA Holdings claimed the rats were coming from elsewhere onto the company’s land, but said steps had been taken to deal with the problem.
He added that once the site was clear of rats the buildings would be demolished, costing around £100,000, and a planning application made to the council for 22 flats to be built.
In response to local complaints about the buildings being empty for so long, he blamed the company’s inability to get finance from the banks to develop the site, saying: “It’s very, very tough out there, but we are slowly but surely moving forward.”
But Mrs Shanks was sceptical that anything would be done. She said she had “lost faith” in the firm after promises made in the past had not been acted on.