Fines could be handed out to inconsiderate motorists who leave their engine running when parked across Central Bedfordshire, affecting air quality.
Local authorities can adopt extra legal powers, enabling fixed penalty notices to be given to drivers who let their vehicle idle and refuse to switch off.
“Engine idling isn’t enforced by Central Bedfordshire Council currently,” according to a report to both its executive and general purposes committee.
“Doing so will enhance the work being done already to improve air quality and support the council’s sustainability plan,” said the report.
The issuing of a fixed penalty notice would be a last resort for civil enforcement and safer neighbourhood officers, it added.
Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno told the executive: “This issue can have a detrimental impact on air quality and the resulting effect on public health.
“This council has a commitment to help people make the right choices and become greener,” he said.
“We’ve put £5,000 in the budget which will go towards signage in areas where we know there are instances, such as outside schools.”
At CBC’s general purposes committee, Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny asked: “While it’s a laudable objective, are we potentially opening up something that will lead to expectations from the public which we won’t fulfil?
“The council will get lots of examples of engine idling where officers are unable to do something.
“Most examples occur when people go in to shop and someone’s in the car listening to music, or in the summer air conditioning doesn’t work if the engine’s not on.
“I’m not suggesting we should ignore it. Clearly something’s in place and we need to support national legislation.”
Head of public protection Jo Borthwick replied: “I agree there’ll be some need to manage public expectation of what this might lead to about issuing fixed penalty notices.
“The effort needs to be put into communicating the need to turn engines off, improving driving behaviour and raising awareness of the problem.
“There’s some fairly old but useful guidance that goes with the legislation, which explains how we should enforce it
“By adopting this, we’ve got the opportunity to do that in a formal capacity, even though the sanctions available are limited.
“Hopefully most drivers’ are already with us on this. Only the very few who choose to ignore us will end up with a fine being issued.”
Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell explained: “I’ve had a lot of complaints from residents about this problem.
“Some have tried to tackle it themselves, so it’s good to see the council taking action.
“When we’re doing patrols on engine idling the far greater problem is around parking on pavements and obstruction near schools. I would like you to tackle both.”
Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Ken Matthews said: “I don’t see this is going to be a serious problem. It’s important the publicity indicates what could happen if people don’t comply.”
Conservative Linslade councillor Gordon Perham suggested: “We need plenty of signage around schools and where people generally do this.”
The general purposes committee agreed to recommend to full council an amendment to the scheme of delegation in the constitution to allow enforcement action to be taken, following the Department for Transport guidance.