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Let Sheffield Breathe: Time to End Vehicle Idling

Sheffield Green Party welcomes the council’s recent consultation about cracking down on engine idling. If there is a strong enough response to the consultation, the council may bring in a new bye-law allowing them to enforce an anti-idling scheme and issue fines to motorists caught idling their engines for no reason.

Many people are in the habit of doing this, perhaps in the belief that it helps to protect the engine. In fact, the reverse is true: letting a modern diesel engine idle actually does more damage to the engine than starting and stopping. Much more importantly, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends anti-idling schemes for public health reasons. So a properly enforced scheme requiring engines to be turned off when the vehicle isn’t moving would benefit everyone, at no hardship to drivers. (Running the engine of a stationary vehicle is already against the Highway Code.)

Sheffield Green Party is in favour of any new scheme that would stop motorists endangering other people’s health for no reason. However, we feel that the consultation was badly designed, with the requirement to choose which locations most deserve to become “no idling” zones (question 5). Why did the format of the consultation force residents to prioritise hospitals over primary schools, or train stations over nursing homes? We believe that clean air for everybody is achievable.

This consultation and the proposed new bye-laws are a small step in the right direction, but it comes in the context of a very poor track record on air quality.

  • Sheffield city council is now nationally notorious for cutting down mature street trees that do so much to cleanse the air we breathe.
  • Amey, the council’s chosen contractors, have been spotted many times running the engines of their works vehicles.
  • Taxis licensed by the city council drive the equivalent of 20 round-the-world trips each week and spend much of their time waiting for pick-ups. Why isn’t the council already using its powers to enforce anti-idling for the hundreds of taxis in the city?
  • A Freedom of Information request reveals that the council has never enforced any anti-idling measures before. Would a new bye-law change this?
  • The approach to pollution from the M1 has been inconsistent.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has led the way on air pollution in Sheffield. Green Party member Graham Turnbull has raised awareness of dangerous pollution levels and attempted to reduce idling outside schools as well as idling from bodies such as Yorkshire Water. Cllr Alison Teal has worked to stop Amey contractors running their engines for too long. Cllr Magid visited Hunters Bar school and talked to idling drivers outside, then followed it up with the council. Countless Green Party members and supporters have fought to save our mature street trees. All this with very little help from the ruling Labour group – and in the case of the trees, active opposition to our work.

If you missed out on completing the consultation, you can still make your views heard. We would urge residents concerned about air quality to contact Cllr Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Transport & Sustainability, on

Topics: air pollution, Alison Teal, City Wide, Council, Featured, Magid Magid, pollution, Transport