A Breath of Fresh Air

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How you can help to improve air quality in Cheshire West?

Cheshire West and Chester Council is committed to making sure the borough is safe and clean and part of this includes looking at ways we can tackle air pollution.They have written to ask us to support an important campaign the Council has launched as part of its Low Emission Strategy to improve air quality.

The new "A Breath of Fresh Air" campaign is focusing on the effects idling engines have on our environment — they're asking all drivers to switch off their engine if their vehicle is stationary to avoid contributing to unnecessary emissions.

Vehicle emissions are the most significant source of air pollution in the borough and is something we can all help to reduce.

Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts. It is recognised as a contributing factor in the onset of heart disease and cancer. Additionally air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society, including children and older people, and those with heart and lung conditions.

The RAC says idling engines produce levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter over two times as many as those in motion, with most instances coming from 'avoidable' road situations such as waiting to pick someone up outside a workplace or school.

The Council has now adopted the power to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) to drivers who do not switch off their idling engine when asked to do so by an authorised officer. This applies primarily to vehicles that are stationary on the roadside or buses parked at bus stops if a departure is not imminent; it does not apply to vehicles waiting at traffic lights/in a traffic queue, at road junctions or zebra crossings or to vehicles that need the engine to be switched on for a purpose other than driving for example, refrigerated vehicles.

In Council car parks, it is already a contravention of the Traffic Regulation Order to allow a vehicle to idle unnecessarily, and a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) can be issued to the driver1. The purpose of the legislation and enforcement is to raise awareness of the issue and to encourage people to switch their engine off routinely when they are stationary. The Council's officers will only issue an FPN or PCN as a last resort if a driver refuses to switch off his or her engine when asked to do so by an authorised officer.

The simple rule is: if you're parked, please switch off your engine.

You can find out more about air quality levels in West Cheshire and what we're doing to improve them by visiting the Low Emission Strategy pages on the Council website www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/lowemissionstrategy

1 The penalty level for an FPN (on-street) is £20, increasing to £40 if it is not paid within 28 days; and the penalty level for a PCN (off-street) is £50, reducing to £25 if paid within 14 days.