Cheshire East votes to bring in fines for engine idling

By Belinda Ryan - Local Democracy Reporter

26th Nov 2022 | Local News

Drivers who sit in stationary vehicles with their engines running face being fined after Cheshire East voted to adopt legal powers to crack down on the polluting practice.

Parents waiting outside schools are among the worst offenders – and the council's highways and transport committee heard on Thursday how one car was spotted outside a Congleton school this week with its engine idling for half an hour while another two were churning out noxious emissions for 15 minutes.

Highways officers tried to steer the council away from an enforcement policy because of a lack of resources, instead recommending it continue the programme of educating drivers about the dangers of engine idling.

But, following an amendment proposed by Cllr Les Gilbert (Dane Valley, Con), the committee voted to adopt additional legislative powers enabling them to fine drivers as well as continuing the education programme

They also voted through an amendment by Crewe councillor Connor Naismith (Lab), who was against introducing fines at this time but wanted to keep the matter under review, and proposed the council write to the government to ask for flexibility regarding the level of fine because, at the moment, it is only £20.

Cllr Naismith's amendment was voted through unanimously but Cllr Gilbert's – which actually called for fines to be introduced – just scraped through by seven votes to six.

Cllr Naismith, who voted against Cllr Gilbert's amendment, told the committee: "If we take on these powers, then it is inevitable the council will come under immense pressure to actually divert enforcement officers away from other kinds of activity towards this."

Committee deputy chair Laura Crane (Lab) said: "If we are not able to enforce legislation that we take on, then I don't see the point to taking it on."

But others disagreed.

Cllr Gilbert said: "To my mind, this isn't just about enforcement, it's about sending out a message that reinforces the education campaign. There are hundreds of rules and regulations that we don't enforce. Hopefully the reason, in most cases, is because it's not perceived to be a big enough problem, so the mere fact that the rules and regulations are in place has the desired effect.

"I believe that most of our residents are law abiding and, if told an action is unlawful and they can be fined for a breach, they'll comply. If compliance is simply advisory, I suspect there will be an element who will make choices that they wouldn't make if they were committing an illegal act."

Willaston councillor Allen Gage (Con) said that as some enforcement officers do visit schools when there are issues 'we should arm them with the power to enforce' – and he believed the fines should be higher.

"For me it's about schools and children to be honest," he said.

"Why should a six-year-old child have to stand with a three-litre diesel exhaust blowing in their face? I know it's difficult but, for me, the protection of the child is important."

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