Engine-idling drivers to be hit with £20 penalties
Conservative councillor says motorists will get cold in their cars under new rules
22 November, 2017 — By Richard Osley
Adam Harrison announces the new fines
POLLUTION-causing drivers who leave engines running while parked face being hit with £20 fines under a new penalty system aimed to improve air quality.
The move for stronger action against ‘idlers’ was voted through with all-party approval at Monday’s full council meeting, sending parking wardens out on the streets to halt the practice.
Environment chief Labour councillor Adam Harrison said that it was while standing outside a polling station on the day of the general election in June that the pollution danger had hit home. “I realised after half an hour that I started to feel very strange, not very well and it wasn’t the 7am slot I had foolishly volunteered for, it was some engine idling which was happening just down the street,” said Cllr Harrison. “It was probably at that moment I realised how poisonous that practice can be.”
The penalty system, where fines can escalate to £1,000 if left unpaid, comes with the council set to launch an investigation into air quality in the borough. Cllr Harrison said he would be writing to the government to allow Camden to make the fines higher because he thought £20 was “a bit puny”.
Conservative councillor Oliver Cooper said the council already could get tougher by issuing standard £80 parking tickets to engine idlers, a move which has been introduced in neighbouring Westminster. Camden was following the lead of a host of boroughs which already penalised idling, including Haringey, Islington and Barnet, he said. “It is lazy to not look at the options taken in Westminster and plastered all over the Evening Standard for three weeks in a row,” he told the meeting.
Liberal Democrat councillor Flick Rea said she was concerned wardens – staff employed by parking contractor NSL – could be exposed to angry motorists and harassment. Cllr Harrison said staff had been “trained to deal with hostile situations”, adding: “They do retreat if they need to.”
The main dissenting voice came from Conservative Jonny Bucknell, who has vowed to freely speak his mind after not being re-selected by his party for next year’s council elections. “One thing this legislation doesn’t take account of is: cold weather. People being cold in a vehicle,” he said. “A year ago, it was chucking down with rain, freezing conditions. I decided to do the husbandy thing and pick up my wife from Chalk Farm station. “I was sitting in the car and I thought I ought to turn the engine off. Within minutes I was freezing, so I turned it on again just to warm up – and I thought: if this legislation comes through, I’m going to get a ticket for this.”
Cllr Bucknell has for several years slept in his car during the political conference season to save money on hotels, but does not keep the engine running all night. He told the meeting the new fine was “going to sweep up the guilty with the innocent”. “I think a tap on the windscreen is all that’s necessary,” he said.
Cllr Harrison suggested he should “wear a coat” if he was too cold in the car