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Bury St Edmunds councillors fear ‘lack of urgency’ over anti-idling campaign after parking officers speak to 22 drivers in six weeks

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Parking officers have begun talking to drivers who leave their engines on while parked in West Suffolk – but calls have been made for more urgency to efforts.

West Suffolk Council agreed in September it would ask its civil parking enforcement officers to speak to any motorists they encountered who were vehicle idling – leaving their engines on while parked.

Data published for this week’s scrutiny committee has revealed that in the first six weeks the team approached 22 drivers.

Parking officers have begun talking to drivers who leave their engines on while parked in West Suffolk. Picture: iStock
Parking officers have begun talking to drivers who leave their engines on while parked in West Suffolk. Picture: iStock

Of those, 15 drove off when approached while seven turned their engines off.

September’s scrutiny committee suggested low level fines of around £20 should be issued, but this was not considered appropriate by officers and agreed instead to pursue informal conversations.

Despite the numbers, the council says its anti-idling campaign efforts were continuing.

Andy Drummond
Andy Drummond

Andy Drummond, Conservative cabinet member for regulatory and the environment, said: “If we can encourage people not to idle it will make a vast difference.

“One thing I have been trying to drive for some time is cars that have a REST button. When you switch the car off and press that the residual heat from the engine is used for about half an hour. You can heat the car from the residual heat from the engine from the journey you have just performed.

“Idling is not good for the environment, and if you can persuade people to change their habits that is good.”

In 2020 a scheme with four schools in the district saw pupils teaching engine-idling motorists about the noxious fumes their vehicles were emitting to pedestrians, with the council confirming that it has recently written to all schools in the district asking them to remind parents not to do so.

Julia Wakelam
Julia Wakelam

Elsewhere, leaflets are being distributed in hotspot areas, and the council promoted the campaign at the Bury St Edmunds Green Fayre.

Suffolk County Council’s public health team meanwhile are developing a plan to highlight the impacts of air pollution on people’s health and organising an air quality summit. Educational videos and podcasts are also currently in production with Ipswich Borough Council’s air quality officer.

But councillors Julia Wakelam (Green) and Diane Hind (Labour), who have been lobbying on the issue said the report was ‘disappointing’ and displayed ‘a lack of urgency’ at both district and county councils.

Diane Hind
Diane Hind

Cllr Wakelam said: “I have not really noticed any interventions by civil enforcement officers, quite the opposite in fact. I have taken this up with the officer in charge at the council and hopefully this will result in more action going forward. I am pushing for monthly reports.

“As the weather worsens, sadly we can expect to see more thoughtless motorists sitting in their cars while pumping out noxious fumes for the rest of us to breathe.”

Cllr Hind added: “I support monthly reports and I will be suggesting more publicity against the health consequences of unnecessary idling, possibly a poster competition for schools, and a leaflet going out with council tax letters.”

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