Visitors to Royal Bolton Hospital over the weekend were left disappointed as new parking charges were being put in place.

The system, complete with automated number plate recognition (ANPR), was originally meant to come into effect on March 31.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic the plans were suspended and the old prices remained in place over the past four months.

Now the decision has been taken to enforce the new system, with the ANPR being enrolled from yesterday.

The abrupt change has left regular visitors to the hospital frustrated and confused over a lack of warning.

Bolton resident Cheryl Gregory said: "I'm pregnant with twins so I have to frequently visit the maternity department, I have to go in for monitoring regularly and it can end up being for several hours or several days at a time.

"I had been to the hospital on Thursday and the old prices were still there, but when I went in on Sunday they had increased by over 100%.

"For the day it's gone up from £3 to £8, which is a lot of money. There's just no justification for these kind of prices.

"A lot of people have got in touch with me on Facebook saying they're just as shocked.

"I feel they're just taking advantage of people, particularly at this time when health is so important.

"I saw some signs up about the new prices but they weren't everywhere, a lot of people wouldn't have seen them.

"It's ridiculous because it's probably cheaper to get here by taxi or public transport, but we're meant to limit that to stop the virus spreading.

"Obviously I understand that prices have to go up, but by this much is outrageous.

"People need to be aware of the prices before they decide to drive there."

Car parking at the hospital is overseen by iFM Bolton on behalf of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.

Under the new system charges will increase from £3 to £5 for up to eight hours, and £3 to £8 for up to 24 hours.

The charge for a monthly pass remains at £25 and the first 30 minutes are free.

A spokeswoman from Royal Bolton Hospital confirmed that the pricing system had come into effect this week, with the ANPR being fully in place from yesterday.

The spokeswoman said that banners were put up in hospital car park last week informing visitors of the change in prices.