Idling vehicles could face instant fines

Michael Gove has said that drivers who repeatedly leave their car engine running while parked could be given instant fines under potential plans to give councils stronger powers to tackle pollution from idling vehicles.

Writing in The Times, the Environment Secretary supported Westminster City Council’s call to be given the power to fine drivers without warning if they have previously been caught with an idling engine, but warned that any new powers, currently being considered by the government, should be ‘used proportionately’ by councils.

Westminster Council, which claims that the borough suffers from the worst air pollution in the country, says that an idling car produces enough exhaust emissions to fill 150 balloons a minute. It has therefore called on the public to report unnecessary engine idling through its website.

To date, 18 local authorities in London have been involved in ‘idling action events’, with drivers asked to switch off their engines when parked. Islington council said 80 per cent of drivers switch off if requested in a friendly and non-judgmental manner. But, Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster Councils, warned that nothing less than a four-figure sum would serve as a ‘sufficient deterrent’ for large companies whose drivers continue ‘widespread and persistent idling even after being asked’.

Under existing regulations, fines can range from £20 to £80.