Leave your engine on for 30 seconds and you’ll be fined – new powers set to come to East Lothian

DRIVERS of stationary vehicles who leave their engines running for more than 30 seconds in Musselburgh’s most polluted streets will face an instant fine under new powers.

East Lothian Council has applied to the Scottish Government to be allowed to enforce legislation banning idling engines in a bid to crack down on air pollution in the town.

The powers could be in place by the time the new private traffic warden replacements hit the streets and Musselburgh town centre is expected to be the first place to be targeted.

The move comes following a report which shows air pollution is still a concern in some areas across East Lothian, in particular Musselburgh, Tranent and Wallyford.

A meeting of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday heard that while a series of initiatives by the council had reduced the levels of unacceptable pollutants in the air in Musselburgh town centre from the 2010 readings, the levels had shown little change in the last three years.

Derek Oliver, the council’s environmental health service manager, said that tougher action could be introduced when the local authority brought in replacements for traffic wardens.

He said: “Moving vehicles along and preventing idling could go hand in hand with parking attendants. It is the idling and stationary stop-start behaviour that causes the most pollution.

“An enforcement strategy for idling offences is currently being explored.”

The introduction of East Lothian Council’s parking attendants was expected to be in place earlier this year but has been delayed as the local authority’s officials worked to meet conditions set by Transport Scotland.

This week, Ray Montgomery, the council’s head of infrastructure, confirmed it now looked unlikely the parking attendants would be on the streets before “the end of the calendar year”.

When they do come in, as well as being able to issue fines for illegal parking on the streets and in the coastal car parks, the new wardens will be able to crack down on motorists who pollute the air with fumes.

East Lothian Council has confirmed that moves are already under way to introduce the fixed penalties to drivers caught sitting with their engines idle.

The current penalty is a £20 fine.

Councillor Stuart Currie, ward member for Musselburgh East and Carberry, said that he wanted to see the powers, which also allow the parking attendants, along with police, to pull over vehicles for random checks, to be used to their full extent in the town. He said: “I think there is a point, and we are here, where vehicles, particularly commercial vehicles, should be pulled over and randomly checked.

“It may seem draconian but tougher actions are needed.

“Many of the complaints I receive relate to taxi drivers sitting with their diesel engines running, particularly on cold mornings.”

In 2013, East Lothian Council declared Musselburgh High Street, from its junction with Newbigging and extending westwards to the junction with Bridge Street, an Air Quality Management Area due to pollution readings.

It has been monitoring the air quality while drawing up an action plan to improve the problem.

Local Greens campaigner Jason Rose has criticised the council for not coming forward with an action plan before now.

He said: “I’m concerned that it appears that the community will only be consulted on the action plan once it has been presented to Government. Local people and health authorities must be closely involved in agreeing a way forward. Given the appalling lack of interest in this important situation from our councillors, I will continue to push for action.”

Councillor Norman Hampshire, cabinet member for the environment, said: “A number of initiatives have already been put into place to tackle this, including productive meetings with local bus operators who are phasing in newer, cleaner vehicles, and Lothian Buses have confirmed their intention to include electric powered buses on their routes that include Musselburgh High Street.

“I would like to assure residents in Musselburgh that many positive steps to improve air quality within the town have already been identified and constructive discussions and projects have been developed with a range of partners, including other local authorities, transport companies, Scottish Government and the East Central Scotland Vehicle Emissions Partnership.”

The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (Scotland) Regulations 2003 gives local authorities discretionary enforcement powers to deal with drivers who fail to switch off engines when parked and carry out roadside vehicle emissions testing.

Each local authority has to apply to Scottish Ministers for the right to act on the powers.

East Lothian Council confirmed it had applied for the powers and hoped they would be in place in time for the new parking attendants, now expected to be introduced at the start of 2017. A spokesperson said: “We are in the process of applying to be allowed to enforce the fixed penalties.”

Source: http://www.eastlothiancourier.com/news/14561114.Leave_your_engine_on_for_30_seconds_and_you_ll_be_fined___new_powers_set_to_come_to_East_Lothian/