Switch your engines off in Luton or face a fine as council tackles air pollution

A campaign to improve air quality in Luton is encouraging motorists to switch their engine off – and they could face fines if they refuse.

By Lynn Hughes
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 2:19 pm

Luton council has launched a campaign following a decision by councillors in March to educate, engage and as a last resort fine drivers in an effort to reduce engine idling.

The ‘Engines off’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the impacts on the quality of the air, people’s health as well as the financial implication of running car engines while parking. Idling creates air pollution which is harmful to health, as well as being a waste of fuel and money. Reducing this helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions which are linked to climate change; and nitrogen dioxide which is linked to respiratory conditions such as asthma and lung cancer.

When people needlessly leave their engines running when parked, the council Neighbourhood Enforcement and parking enforcement teams will positively engage with these drivers and encourage them to switch off their engines and explain the harm to environment. If people don’t turn off their engines when asked to they now have the powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for £20 which increases to £40 if not paid or challenged within 21 days.

The council is aiming to cut down on air pollution - Getty Images

Cllr Tom Shaw portfolio holder responsible for Climate Change said: “’Engines off’ is an important part of our aims to be carbon neutral town by 2040. With one of the main source of pollution being road transport and the current concern about the climate and health problems, this campaign will educate and encourage people to switch off.

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“Walking or cycling is one way to reduce air pollution, but if people do drive, it’s important to remember to turn off the engine when the car is parked, even if waiting in the car. This small change can make a big difference. Although we now have the ability to fine people who do not turn of their engines when asked we hope we won’t have to but instead that they will get on board with our campaign and not be an ‘idler’.”

Although the council wants to encourage people all over the town to switch off when parked the powers it now has the powers to fine people who refuse to in the three Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in Luton and around schools.

The fines would be issued as a last resort and only where drivers do not voluntarily switch off their engine and would not be enforced in instances such as when a vehicle is stationary due to traffic, where running in order to trace a vehicle defect or on a cold day at a taxi rank. They would also not be issued if the driver is elderly and running the engine to keep warm, or to help defrost a windscreen in very cold weather.

As part of the awareness campaign the council will be asking people in a short survey what they think about introducing these powers in other areas of the town www.luton.gov.uk/letstalk