Cheshire East confirm u-turn on 'idling' vehicle fines
By Belinda Ryan - Local Democracy Reporter
27th Nov 2023 | Local News
Cheshire East has made a U-turn on plans to fine drivers who sit in stationary vehicles with their engines running saying it would be too expensive to enforce.
A year ago the highways and transport committee voted to adopt legal powers to crack down on the polluting practice.
But at yesterday's (Thursday) meeting of the highways and transport committee, councillors voted to reverse that decision with chair Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind) saying: "The decision the committee made 12 months ago was against officer recommendation but also outside of budget as well."
The matter had first been brought before the council by the late Cllr Les Gilbert with the primary aim of focusing on drivers who put children's health at risk by sitting at the school gates with their cars pumping out polluting exhaust fumes.
Richard Hibbert, head of strategic transport and parking, told yesterday's meeting the regulations around when engine idling is and is not permitted are open to interpretation and those authorities which had adopted the powers had issued very few fines.
The committee was told it would cost between £75k and £80k to set up the process and there would be an annual recurring cost.
Mr Hibbert said there is no budget available to fund this and 'little likelihood of the fine income from £20 fixed penalty notices meeting the ongoing costs let alone set-up costs'.
The committee is also asked to note that air quality across the whole borough is reported annually and that, 'should evidence indicate a need, the opportunity for engine idling fixed penalties can be reviewed as part of that process'.
Committee member Allen Gage (Willaston, Con) is urging councillors to block the U-turn next week.
Cllr Gage told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "Engine idling outside schools, which was the reason behind the policy, is a totally unnecessary occurrence. It forces those waiting around on foot, often young children who cannot choose to extract themselves from the situation, to breathe in fumes. It also provides the same nuisance to those with gardens or properties close by."
He added: "I am rather surprised that this Labour/Independent led 'green' council is now trying to overturn the policy proposed by the late Cllr Les Gilbert and myself. If the council cannot afford to enforce the policy then it should remain in place until we can.
Cllr Crane proposed the recommendation to 'set aside the opportunity to adopt additional legislative powers' to fine drivers for engine idling, and this was seconded by Cllr Browne.
Councillors agreed the recommendation by 12 votes to one.
The council will continue with its programme of educating drivers about engine idling.