CLEAN Air Zone signs on Bolton roundabout have been vandalised amid widespread local opposition to a plan dubbed a "congestion charge through the back door."

The signs, located on Kearsley Roundabout, Bolton Road, were discovered earlier this week to have been daubed with spray paint.

They had been installed as part of Greater Manchester's move to a clean air zone, which will require drivers of vehicles deemed to cause more pollution pay an extra daily charge from next year, but Kearsley councillor Paul Heslop says that though he condemns the vandalism, he is not surprised that some people have reacted in this way.

He said: "There is general cynicism amongst residents about the Clean Air Charge with the overwhelming view that it is a congestion charge by the back door.

"'Paul if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck’ was a comment from resident when discussing the Clean Air charge."

The Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone will come into force from May 2022.

Since the policy was announced, supporters have said it will help to protect the city region's environment by driving heavily polluting vehicles off the road, while critics fear it could become a similar system to London's congestion charge.

Cllr Heslop has also criticised the lack of choice residents have had in the matter, with the decision having been taken at executive level.

He said: "There are widespread concerns about issues such as rat-runs which may be used by motorists familiar with the location of the ANPR cameras which capture the registration numbers of vehicles."

He added: "It could be that in effort for small local businesses to avoid the charge, they will use these roads to avoid the ANPR cameras on Bolton Road which will only exacerbate the problem, not just for pollution but also for traffic congestion."

But Clean Air GM believes the zone is the best way to preserve Greater Manchester's environment while still allowing the economy to function.

A statement said: "The GM Clean Air Plan will help us reach legal limits of nitrogen dioxide by 2024, making our city-region a cleaner, greener place to live, work and grow old.

"The 10 Greater Manchester councils believe this plan is the right one to clean up the air we all breathe now and protect future generations.

"It will support city-region’s plans to build back better and greener."