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You hold the key to a cleaner, greener, better Bury St Edmunds as anti-idling campaign launches

This is all about education, says the group behind a Bury St Edmunds-wide anti-idling campaign, which launches today to tie in with the national Clean Air Day.

Frustrated at seeing stationary vehicles sitting with their engines left running, members of the Churchgate Area Association’s air quality group are aiming to spread their anti-idling message far and wide.

And they are hopeful the campaign could make a difference.

Anti-idling campaign launches in Bury St Edmunds (48033242)
Anti-idling campaign launches in Bury St Edmunds (48033242)

They have created a short video to highlight the impact of idling vehicles, which they are promoting across social media.

The hard-hitting 60-second video is aimed at making motorists think twice before leaving their engine running while stopped.

And it is a message that everyone who uses the town’s roads – visitors and residents – needs to hear, according to air quality group member Geoffrey House.

Geoffrey House (48029644)
Geoffrey House (48029644)

“The problem is many people come into the town, not just residents, so we have to spread the word as far and wide as possible,” said Geoffrey.

“One doesn’t wish to be a bore, but there is such a lot of idling going on that is not necessary. We need it to become second nature that people do not idle – like wearing seatbelts. Which is all about education.

“Everyone driving into this town needs to be aware of the dangers of emissions and idling when stationary.

“One thing I have noticed, when people are idling they are either talking, texting or eating. There is a natural tendency to say ‘but look at all the other cars driving around – I’m doing no more harm just sitting here’, but it is harmful and it needs to stop.”

Vivien Gainsborough Foot (48029660)
Vivien Gainsborough Foot (48029660)

Vivien Gainsborough Foot, fellow committee member, said the aim was to make Bury into a cleaner town, while Cathy Friel said: We really are trying to educate people. People are not aware of the risks of idling and if they knew the risks to health, they might not do it.”

The Churchgate area air quality group is a sub-division of a town-wide group set up by West Suffolk Council. Representatives of several residents’ associations are members, with each area focussing on specific problems – such as the number of HGVs using roads, anti-idling and more.

The Churchgate group says it finds two of the main idling perpetrators are parents dropping off or collecting their children from school, while contractors are also known to regularly leave their engines running.

Cathy Friel (48029649)
Cathy Friel (48029649)

However, there is also a problem in the town centre.

Cathy said: “The worst place is the Buttermarket. You see people parked on double yellow lines and they think if they keep their engine running they won’t get a ticket.

“We are told taxi drivers have been educated about this, but we also know some of them still do it.”

Anti-idling campaign launches in Bury St Edmunds (48033244)
Anti-idling campaign launches in Bury St Edmunds (48033244)

Geoffrey added: “This is why it’s so important we get our message across and out there.”

Their campaign has been launched to coincide with yesterday’s national Clean Air Day, with the group hopeful their 60-second video could be seen and shared by thousands.

The video’s message:

Vivien Gainsborough Foot, Cathy Frield and Geoffrey House (48029620)
Vivien Gainsborough Foot, Cathy Frield and Geoffrey House (48029620)
  • Did you know that by leaving your vehicle’s engine running while it’s stationary for one minute it produces enough toxic emissions to fill the lungs of 60 people? That’s one pair of lungs for every second of this video.
  • Air pollution is a contributing factor to asthma, lung disease including cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia.
  • Idling also damages our environment, contributing to excessive carbon emissions.
  • But you can help us to change that. You can play your part in reducing localised air pollution by turning off your engine when stationary.
  • You #holdthekey to a cleaner, greener, better Bury St Edmunds.

“We are trying to make turning off the engine a natural habit. There is no strong argument for keeping engines running,” said Geoffrey.

During the first lockdown, car usage and traffic dropped so dramatically Churchgate residents noticed an accompanying drop in idling vehicles.

“But now it is back to the same as before, if not worse,” said Geoffrey.

Cathy said: “The trouble with living in the town centre is these streets are narrow so we do get more pollution.”

Their campaign – particularly given the number of stationary vehicles left running near schools group members see regularly – is backed up by Larissa Lockwood, director of clean air at Global Action Plan.

She said: “Our children have not been exempt from the turmoil and disruption caused by the global pandemic.

“As we return to our lives, we must take this chance to create a healthier environment for our children to go back to – where they can learn and play safely. By protecting our children from the damage caused by air pollution, we are protecting their future.”

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