CONTROVERSIAL Clean Air Zone plans have mobilised thousands of opponents, according to a Bolton councillor.

Cllr Paul Heslop, of One Kearsley, says that objections to the plan, which could see some residents charged as much as £2,500 a year, have led to the creation of a new movement on social media, in Facebbok groups such as Rethink the Clean Air Zone, and in planned protests across the city region.

This comes not long after plans were announced by taxi drivers to stage a protest against the scheme outside Bolton town hall on Monday, while some opponents have gone as far as to paint over signage around the borough.

Cllr Heslop said: "It is worrying that the government feels that it can ride roughshod over the will of the people who less than a generation ago voted four to one against a charge for motorists in Greater Manchester.

"Thankfully, democracy has a habit of coming back to bite those who try to hoodwink citizens and we are now seen the birth of a movement on social media that is taking this issue forward, a group set up only a few weeks ago now has nearly 30,000 followers."

He added: "Opposition to the proposed Clean Air Charge is certainly growing in Kearsley and I have been approached my many residents who will be affected by the changes.

"Most queries have come from small businesses that have a van that may fall foul of the new criteria and be subject to the £10 charge."

"Some residents have said that they will change to estate cars and that is quite worrying for me because these traders may then take out car insurance which may later prove invalid if they are using the car whilst undertaking a trade."

Cllr Heslop says that 100,439 residents in the borough have previously voted by as margin of four to one against a charge for using the roads and he hopes to see the new proposal properly debated.

Responding to recent opposition, a statement issued by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Cllr Andrew Western, the city-region’s Clean Air lead, said: "We know this is a major challenge for many individuals and businesses which is why we have always been clear with ministers that it must be accompanied by a fair package of financial support.

"While the Government has provided £120m, we are concerned that they have so far failed to agree to our request for additional support for those who will find it hardest to make the change."