Tower Hamlets council will hand drivers £20 fines for failing to switch off their engines when parked, as part of a new policy introduced under the east London borough’s #BreatheClean campaign.
The penalty will rise to £40 if it is not paid within 28 days.
Local authorities are increasingly looking towards anti-idling enforcement as a tool to tackle air pollution, with engine idling seen as one of the key contributors to air pollution in areas around schools for example, when parents collect and drop off their children.
Fixed penalty charges can be enforced through powers available to local authorities under the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions)(Fixed Penalty)(England) Regulations 2002 to take action against drivers of vehicles which are “engine idlingâ€? unnecessarily.
The law does allow for drivers to keep their engines running when queuing at traffic lights, when having their engine checked or if it is running auxiliary machinery.
According to the council, more than 50% of the air pollution arising in the borough comes from motor vehicles, whilst up to 7.4% of all deaths in Tower Hamlets can be linked to air pollution.
As many as 40% of its 272,000 residents live in areas which exceed the 40 µg/m3 legal limit for nitrogen dioxide. And, research by King’s College has suggested that children in Tower Hamlets had up to 10% less lung capacity than the national average as a result of air pollution.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Cleaning up our air quality is a key priority, which is why we have launched our ‘Breathe Clean’ campaign.
“Vehicle exhaust fumes are one of the biggest contributors to pollution in Tower Hamlets, and poor air quality can have a particular impact on our young people’s lung development and on residents with underlying health conditions.
“We are telling drivers not to leave their engines running unnecessarily, through educating them on the impact and where necessary through enforcement.â€?
The fines will only be issued if drivers refuse to switch off their engine when asked to by a council officer, the council says.
Councillor Rachel Blake, Cabinet Member for Air Quality added: “Engines that are left to idle cause hot spots of pollution that affect both passers-by and people in the car itself.
“Using cars less, and walking or cycling on short journeys more, is good for us, it’s good for the environment and it’s key to reducing air pollution in Tower Hamlets and across the capital.â€?
As part of its work to address air pollution Tower Hamlets is offering up to £200,000 in funding to residents, schools, charities, housing associations and community groups to deliver projects aim at tackling the issue (see airqualitynews.com story).
Projects eligible for backing include those seeking to reduce exposure to or increase awareness of air pollution, and have ‘wider community impacts’ as well as being relevant to the borough’s Air Quality Action Plan.