Drivers face 'no-idling' zones outside South Tyneside schools in a bid to tackle air pollution
Drivers who ‘idle’ their cars outside schools in South Tyneside have come under the spotlight as part of a drive to tackle air pollution.
Earlier this year, a report from Public Health England said up to 36,000 people were dying each year from human-made air pollution.
Key recommendations included congestion charges and councils introducing ‘no-idling’ zones near schools.
“I have had a lot of people raising concerns about pollution and idling,” Coun Ernest Gibson said.
“You go down the seafront and see lots of activities on and lots of traffic – we also have idling cars outside of schools.
“It is an offence and its also polluting the atmosphere, we need to be allowed to breathe.
“We all have to contribute [to solutions] especially when we were talking about the environment at full council the other night.
“This could be a way forward.”
The comments came during a meeting of the council’s Place Select Committee.
Volunteers could approach drivers about the issue
Strategy and Democracy Officer, Paul Baldasera, said schemes were already in place to tackle the issue in select local authority areas in the UK.
This includes awareness campaigns – with volunteers having conversations with drivers who are idling.
Mr Baldasera added that introducing a similar scheme in South Tyneside could have a “decent impact with not a lot of resource.”
Coun Jane Carter said she was already involved in a local campaign on the issue in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, which she represents..
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“Certainly in East Boldon the roads are so narrow where schools are and you have parents dropping off or having a chat with the neighbour next door while keeping their engines running,” she said.
“It’s about raising awareness of it because once you do, it brings it to the fore.”
Solutions may lie elsewhere
Green Party councillor David Francis – who led calls for a climate emergency last week – questioned how a ban on idling cars would work in practice.
He suggested solutions to vehicle emissions could lie elsewhere.
“Some schools are doing things like the daily mile to increase activity, children should be using active transport to get to and from school,” he said.
“We should try and find ways to incentivise people so they aren’t leaving their car running but not using their cars at all.”
Coun Gladys Hobson added ‘walking buses’ could be rolled out across the borough to encourage walking rates.
While Coun Anne Hetherington said some problems around pollution could stem from the timing of traffic lights.
“In particular we recently experienced the one just outside the town hall, its horrendous,” she said.
“Have we got that timing right to improve traffic flows because we’re spending all of this money improving roads.
“Something as simple as looking at the traffic lights will help improve traffic flows and have a knock-on effect on the idling.”
The Place Select Committee recently launched a new commission into ‘the future of South Shields as a seaside town’ – which also covers environmental issues.
Following debate, councillors agreed to discuss car idling in more detail in September to coincide with the new school year.