Braintree District Council in Essex may the first in the country to enforce Swiss-style environmental laws, forcing motorists to switch off their engines when loading or waiting. It is already an offence to leave a motor vehicle unattended with its engine running, but under the new rules penalty notices would be issued even when the driver is in the car.
If the proposal is passed next month parking attendants or environmental health officers will be given new powers to issue £30 penalties, increasing to £60 if the fine is not paid within 14 days.
Lorry drivers who do not switch off their engines while unloading or motorists who wait outside a shop while a passenger goes inside could be caught by the proposed law. But there would be no penalty for keeping the engine running in traffic jams.
Other local authorities are watching with interest and are likely to introduce similar restrictions. Wendy Schmitt, Braintree council’s cabinet member for public protection and healthy living, who devised the proposals, said: 'I am a keen environmentalist and want to see this proposal adopted.'
The Association of Chief Police Officers said the offence could be enforced under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations, which enable councils to punish drivers for excessive 'noise or emission of exhaust gases'.