Norwich councillors to ask for powers to fine drivers who leave their engines running

Drivers could soon face fines if they leave their engines running. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Drivers who leave their engines running in stationary traffic in Norwich city centre could soon be facing £20 fines as part of a bid to cut soaring levels of air pollution.

Norwich City Council's cabinet have agreed to ask the government to sanction powers that would allow them to target drivers who leave their engines idling.

The move wouldn't apply to vehicles caught up in roadworks or congestion.

If the initiative is approved by the government, enforcement officers from the council would have the power to ask drivers to turn off their engines.

If the driver failed to comply, a £20 fixed penalty notice would be issued, and if they refused to provide the necessary details for that fixed penalty notice, a fine of up to £1,000 could be issued.

Parts of Norwich are considered by the World Health Organisation to be unsafe to breathe. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"Ultimately, it's about changing people's attitude so that when you're sitting in traffic, if you're idling, your first thought is to switch the engine off because it's better for the environment," Mike Stonard from Norwich City Council told ITV News Anglia.

"Just as it's normal now to put your seatbelt on, just as we're trying to encourage lower speeds with 20 mile an hour zones across the city, it's about winning hearts and minds and changing behaviour."

The move comes following a successful five-week trial in the city where new road signs were used to encourage drivers to switch off their engine at red lights.

The signs were trialled just before Christmas in Norwich. Credit: UEA

The temporary signs were put up close to traffic lights on Riverside Road near the station by a team of researchers from the University of East Anglia.

Those in charge of the project say that they saw a big jump in the number of motorists deciding to switch off their engines - even after the trial had concluded.

"We found that only about 10% of drivers seemed to be turning off their engines whilst the lights were red," Rose Meleady from the UEA said.

"When the signs were in place, we found that increased to about 20%. Whenever we're likely to be stopped for one minute or longer, we should be switching off our engines.

"Turning off the engine and restarting it will cause less pollution and waste less fuel than if we leave it idling."