19 June, 2024

Thanet drivers encouraged to ‘switch off’ and help improve air quality

Ahead of this year’s National Clean Air Day, happening on Thursday 20 June, Thanet District Council is urging drivers to do their bit and turn off engines when their vehicle is stationary or parked.

National Clean Air Day, an annual campaign, aims to spread awareness of air pollution and show how people can play a part in reducing negative impacts on air quality.

Thanet District Council has been monitoring air quality since 1993, and currently reviews levels of pollution at 45 sites across the district. Data is reviewed against national air quality objectives and a status report is submitted to the government every year for review.

Overall, Thanet generally has very good air quality. But when traffic builds up on busy roads at peak times, so does the pollution resulting from burning petrol and diesel. A key contributing factor is ‘idling’, where drivers allow the engine to run unnecessarily while their vehicle is stationary or parked. 

One of the council’s corporate priorities is ‘Protect our environment’, and in a move to reduce the impact of traffic-related air pollution, Cabinet approved a proposal at a meeting on Thursday 30 May 2024. 

Activity will concentrate on educating local people about the harmful effects of idling. Officers will work with local schools to inform parents, carers and children about the danger of idling, giving out leaflets to people who park close to schools. The focus is on certain locations near to schools where children are particularly at risk, as well as in the district’s Air Quality Management Area which is in place from the St Lawrence roundabout along the A255 to Shah Place, in Ramsgate. 

An action plan will be developed to focus on reducing pollution in this area, along with further work to cut exposure to air pollution across the district.

In addition to educational activity, Enforcement Officers can now issue £20 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to drivers who ignore advice to turn off idling engines. The FPN rises to £40 if not paid within 28 days. 

Why is ‘idling’ so harmful? 

Leaving engines to idle not only burns climate changing fossil fuels, it also produces nitrogen dioxide and fine particles, causing dangerous air pollution. An idling vehicle emits 20 times more pollution than one travelling at 32mph. For each litre of fuel used by a diesel engine, 2.64 kg of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. 

Children with asthma and older people with respiratory conditions are particularly susceptible to this type of air pollution. People travelling inside cars are also exposed to high levels of air pollution. 

What can drivers do?

To avoid unnecessary pollution, people are encouraged to turn off vehicle engines when stationary or parked. This is particularly important near to schools, and anywhere where people are present.

Thanet-based schools that would like to take part in an anti-idling campaign in partnership with the council are invited to email the Environmental Health team on environmental.health@thanet.gov.uk


You can find out more about Thanet’s air quality on the council’s website

Further information on Clean Air Day is available here

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