Will £20 fixed penalty for engine idling in Luton lead to public backlash?

The policy is likely to be enforced around schools in particular

By Euan Duncan
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 4:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 4:06 pm

Adopting powers to target motorists who leave their engine idling in Luton could lead to a public backlash, a meeting heard.

The policy is likely to be enforced around schools in particular, but will apply across the borough as a whole.

A £20 fixed penalty notice can be issued if a polite request to switch the engine off is ignored.

Engine idling (Getty)

Three recommendations were presented in a report to the borough council's executive on March 7 by Labour Challney councillor Tom Shaw.

"It's not going to be popular," he warned. "Many people won't like it. I believe we've got no option but to do this, especially outside schools. Plenty of local authorities have done likewise.

"People have mentioned about how the process will work, when our traffic enforcement officers are outside schools on a regular basis.

"I don't think it will take long for the message to get out that we won't allow drivers to pollute the atmosphere so they can keep warm in the vehicle for ten minutes.

"That's often when they're blocking the entrance to residents' driveways," explained councillor Shaw, who's the portfolio holder for housing, waste and climate change.

"We'll see what happens. We'll get some kickback on it. From a climate change point of view, there's no option but to do it."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks told the executive: "This was wholeheartedly supported by members of the overview and scrutiny board.

"It's quite clear it'll also be heavily supported by parents who walk their children to school," he said. "It won't be supported by those who drive their children there.

"There's an educational challenge here for the council to get the message across. But it has to be backed up by enforcement, otherwise it won't work."

Department for Transport guidance states that a fixed penalty notice should only be issued as a last resort and only where driver cooperation to voluntarily switch off their engine is not obtained, according to a report to the executive.

"The guidance states that breaches should not be enforced where:

a vehicle is stationary because of traffic queuing ahead;

an engine is running to help trace a vehicle defect;

machinery on a vehicle requires it to be running;

a vehicle is propelled by gas produced by the functioning of plant on the vehicle.

"Common sense should be applied at all times in considering enforcement of these powers," said the report.

"It also sets out some examples of what might be considered as mitigation for leaving an engine running, including on a cold day at a taxi rank, to help defrost a windscreen in very cold weather, or if a breakdown recovery vehicle needs to run lights off the engine.

"The plan is to focus on Luton’s existing air quality management areas and around school locations.

"Monitoring and enforcement of the powers would be undertaken by the council's uniformed teams within the neighbourhood services division, subject to the necessary training and authorisations being provided to ensure high standards."

Signs within the areas of focus would have some cost implications and this needs to be explored further, added the report.

Fined motorists will have the right to request a hearing which will initially be an internal review within the council. The matter may then be referred to court by the driver.

The executive unanimously agreed the recommendations, including adoption of the relevant powers authorising officers to undertake the monitoring and enforcement activities.

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