Enforcement officers tackle drivers of idling parked cars over fumes

Combustion fumes coming out of car exhaust pipe

Parking Enforcement Officers are trying to persuade drivers to switch off their engines - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Parking enforcement officers are trying to persuade drivers to switch off their idling engines after community leaders debated issuing fines.

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 revealed that in the first six weeks the team approached 22 drivers.

Jude hands an anti-idling leaflet to a driver, watched by fellow students Layla and Felicity

Students at Great Barton handing out leaflets to drivers about the dangers of idling engines - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

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

The scrutiny committee has suggested low level fines of around £20 should be issued, but this was not considered appropriate by officers and it was agreed instead to pursue informal conversations to try to educate motorists.

Andy Drummond

Andy Drummond, Conservative cabinet member for regulatory and the environment at West Suffolk Council - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

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.

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

Last year four schools in the district saw pupils teaching engine-idling motorists about the noxious fumes their vehicles were emitting to pedestrians.

The council has recently written to all schools asking them to remind parents not to leave cars idling.

West Suffolk Council

West Suffolk councillors debated whether to dish out £20 fines - Credit: Jason Noble LDRS

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 level.

Julia Wakelam

Julia Wakelam, Green councillor for the Abbeygate ward at West Suffolk Council. - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

Julia 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.”

West Suffolk Councillors Diane Hind Picture by Mark Westley

Diane Hind, councillor for the Tollgate ward at West Suffolk Council and leader of the Labour group at the authority - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

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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