A Nazi symbol has been scrawled on a busy route into Newcastle city centre, in offensive graffiti attacking the new Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

A swastika has been spray-painted at the side of the Great North Road alongside a message reading “F*** THE CLEAN AIR ZONE”.

Council bosses have condemned the shocking vandalism and said it “in no way reflects our values as a city or the values of those who live here”.

The vile graffiti was spotted on Wednesday and greeted drivers coming into the north end of the city centre, close to the Hancock Museum and Newcastle Civic Centre.

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The Northern Echo:

It comes two days after the launch of the new CAZ, which imposes daily charges on some high-polluting vehicles in an effort to cut illegal levels of air pollution.

A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said: “We do not tolerate offensive graffiti and we have made immediate arrangements for this to be removed as quickly as possible.

“The symbolism used in this act of vandalism in no way reflects our values as a city or the values of those who live here.

“We will always take swift action to remove offensive graffiti and would encourage people to report any such instances of this by contacting our Envirocall service on 0191 278 7878 or by visiting our website.”

The introduction of the CAZ, which has been in the works for years, means that drivers of older buses, taxis, lorries, and coaches that do not meet certain environmental standards must pay daily tolls of either £50 or £12.50 to come into or through the city centre.

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There are also £12.50 charges planned for older vans from this July, but all private cars are exempt.

The charging zone has been imposed in response to a Government order to slash emissions levels in certain hotspots, with poor air quality having been linked to more than 300 deaths on Tyneside every year.

However, the scheme has come in for criticism from taxi drivers and affected businesses – with major concerns having been raised about the severe financial impact on people who have to pay a toll, at a time of economic crisis.

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Petrol vans and taxis that meet ‘Euro 4’ standards are exempt, as are ‘Euro 6’ diesels. All HGVs, buses and coaches must be of ‘Euro 6’ standard to avoid the toll.

Newcastle and Gateshead councils say that, as a general rule, the following vehicles should meet the minimum standard and, therefore, be exempt from tolls: Taxis – Diesels registered after September 2015, petrol cars registered after 2005; Vans – Diesels registered after September 2016, petrol after January 2006; HGVs, buses and coaches registered after 2014.

You can check if your vehicle is compliant or not by entering your registration number at gov.uk/clean-air-zones.