THE news that shoppers will have to pay 5p for a plastic bag from October next year has been welcomed in the Vale and the Cotswolds.

Announced in the Queen's speech last week, the levy will apply to all plastic bags England in a bid to cut litter and reduce damage to the environment.

The charge, which has already been introduced in Wales and Northern Ireland, is expected to significantly reduce the millions of carrier bags handed out by Britain's supermarkets every year.

However under the plans, small retailers will be exempted from the charge to help reduce burdens on start-up and growing businesses.

Charles Tucker, committee member of Transition Pershore, said although he welcomed the news, he thought it would take some time for shoppers to get used to it.

"I think we've got so used to having free plastic bags it's going to be easy to give them up," he said. "But I think we all recognise it's not a sustainable use of resources. It will protect a lot of impact on the environment.

"If we're to suffer some small inconvenience to remember to take a shopping bag rather than picking up a free one then I think it's a price worth paying. And if you forget you can still have one and will pay 5p for it. The planet is going to be a winner from this."

Lucy Worrall, spokesman for foodstore Budgens, said the charge was similar to the stores' 'Pennies for Plastic' scheme which encourages shoppers to bring their own carrier bags.

"We think it's a good thing purely because of the amount of carrier bags that go in landfill," she said. "We think it's a really positive thing. The fact it's not going to be compulsory for smaller retailers means we won't be affected by it to start with."

Dave Passingham, secretary of Transition Shipston, hailed the move a "great step forward" for the environment.

"The plastic lingers in the environment and contaminates things for many years ahead," he said. "It's worked in other countries. It's obviously a waste of resources if they are just being used once and put into landfill sites."

Councillor David Fowles, cabinet member for the environment at Cotswold District Council, said: “I’m all for seeing the amount of plastic bags reduced and for people using other forms of carriage like cardboard and reusable bags just like they did in the old days.

“It’s an initiative from the government we would support wholeheartedly. We’re not able to collect them so would be pleased to see the back of them.”