Rats have been running rampant in a children’s play area, sparking outrage among residents.

Concerns were raised after a number of rodent sightings near the Splash Pad in Victoria Park, Haywards Heath and council workers are now monitoring the situation.

A pest control expert who visited has confirmed the presence of rat burrows.

Adrian Price, a rat expert from the Ship’s Cat pest control company, said: “When I arrived the area was strewn with fast food wrappers and other food related litter that the rats are almost certainly feeding on.

“There was evidence that rats had been digging under a litter bin and there were also several, fairly obvious rat burrows between the tree and the hedge at the corner of the play area.

“My concern about the rats would be the very real risk that they could be carrying diseases or parasites that could be passed to humans.”

Mr Price’s main concern is a bacteria known as Weil’s disease which is associated with the urine of infected rats.

The disease is usually transmitted to humans through contaminated water or soil and the infection can lead to mild flu-like symptoms, jaundice or even death.

Councillor Pru Moore, Mid Sussex District Council cabinet member for leisure and sustainability, said that the council conducted an investigation of the park on July 31 but found no evidence of rats nesting.

But more recently things have changed. She said: “I visited the park on Monday morning and discovered some evidence of rats nesting.

“Action has been taken to address this and the situation will be monitored by our pest control officer twice a day.”

The Splash Pad was installed at Victoria Park to replace an ageing paddling pool and sits among regular children’s playground equipment.

Resident Penny Curzon saw four rats when visiting the park with her two grandchildren and sent pictures to the Haywards Heath Uncovered Facebook page, shocked at how the rats came up to where she was sitting.