West Suffolk councillors call for fines for engine idling
Parking enforcement officers in West Suffolk are set to begin talking to drivers over engine idling from next week – but calls have been made for fines to be allowed.
Engine idling – where motorists leave their car running while parked – can lead to higher air pollution levels in problem spots, and is often seen in drop-off and pick-up areas outside schools, GP surgeries, or train stations among others.
West Suffolk councillors Diane Hind (Tollgate) and Julia Wakelam (Abbeygate) have been calling for action over the issue after raising a motion to the council in 2018, and at Thursday night’s scrutiny committee sought a forward work programme item on the matter that would lead to the committee requesting civil parking enforcement officers being able to issue fines for drivers who refuse to turn their engines off.
Corporate director Jill Korwin has agreed to instructing parking enforcement officers to speak to idling vehicles as an interim measure to see how much progress that can bring – and could begin from as early as next week – but will not yet be able to issue fines.
She said: “What our parking enforcement teams are happy to do is when they are out and about and see this is start speaking to people and asking them to turn their engine off, so that’s something we can do without any change to the powers of the officers or their contracts as they are not issuing fines at that stage, and we can watch the impact of that.
“As an interim measure just moving forward with the parking service team, giving that advice when they see it has to be a positive step even while we are then working through the need to get authorised to offer fixed penalty notices in these specific circumstances.”
It is understood the council will need to investigate whether a change is possible in the enforcement powers of officers, and whether idling fines could be included in that.
Cllr Hind said it was “very disappointing” fines could not be issued straight away and was a “chance lost” to make progress.
“I think the council missed an opportunity a few years ago [when requests were first made for action], but at least saying they will start with asking we are pursuing it,” she said.
“The most important part of this is simply the health of residents. There is no doubt it’s harmful.
“Air quality is associated with a number of health issues and particularly affects the most vulnerable in society such as children and older people.
“A couple of minutes can cause a lot of pollution and we’ve all seen people running their engines to defrost windscreens whilst they have their breakfast or pop into the local shop, or parents keeping their car warm for their children.”
Cllr Wakelam said a £20 fine would be appropriate for people who have been asked to turn their engine off while parked but refused to do so, and added: “If that happens, a few people are fined and it’s publicised that might encourage people to turn their engines off.”
The matter is likely to return to the scrutiny committee with an update on progress.