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Should parents be banned from idling car engines near schools to cut air pollution?

PUBLISHED: 18:35 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:35 11 March 2019

Traffic chaos outside a Norfolk primary school. Public Health England has proposed that councils introduce

Traffic chaos outside a Norfolk primary school. Public Health England has proposed that councils introduce "no-idling zones" outside schools to help reduce air pollution. Picture: ARCHANT

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Parents should be banned from idling their engines at the school gates to reduce air pollution, a new report says.

The proposal was put forward by Public Health England (PHE), which said children were particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.

It recommended that local councils work with children and parents to implement “no-idling zones” outside schools, to make it easier for children to walk or cycle to school, and to increase public awareness around air pollution and children.

The PHE review said these measures would “reduce air pollution in the vicinity of schools and reduce children’s exposure accordingly”.

Speaking to the BBC, PHE medical director Paul Cosford said: “We should stop idling outside schools and we should make sure that children can walk or cycle to school.”

Proposals to minimise the amount of pollution children in Norwich are exposed to near their schools were put forward last year, when Green city councillor Ben Price raised the idea of banning traffic outside city schools in peak times of the day.

In response Kevin Maguire, Labour’s cabinet member for safe city environment, said while the city was committed to reducing pollution such exclusion zones could be complicated and costly to introduce.

In October 2018 the city council introduced a £20 fine for drivers found to be idling their engines in the city centre in a bid to reduce pollution.

As of December 2018 eight motorists had been given verbal warnings but no fines had been issued.

The PHE report on air pollution described it as the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK and linked it to ailments including coronary heart disease, strokes and respiratory diseases.

It called for congestion charges to be imposed in cities across the UK and for cities to be redesigned so people were kept further away from highly polluting roads.

It also said local authorities could do more to reduce demand for “more polluting forms of transport” by promoting public transport and walking or cycling, including providing more school bus services.

A survey conducted for the PHE review found that people “rely on the convenience of their cars” for short journeys such as the school run.

Norwich reacts

Coral Ismail, Dereham Road

The Norwich mother said the worried about the damage to her children’s health caused by cars waiting outside schools for long periods of time.

She added: ‘Lots of parents can’t be bothered to walk, but if you live locally it makes sense.”

Charlie Lock, 20, Attleborough

The 20-year-old said that if parents could no park near the school they would have to park far away and that stopping close to the school was more convenient.

He said: “If the law is enforced in Attleborough parents will have to start parking in supermarkets which just moves the pollution problem somewhere else instead of solving it.”

Tegan Jones, 18

The teenager said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest a ban on cars around schools.”

She argued that children travel from all over to get to school so it is neither safe nor convenient to walk in many cases.

She added: “Particularly in winter, it may be dark or icy which makes it more unsafe.”

Hayley Tagg, 50, Golden Triangle

Ms Tagg said: “Global warming is an issue which keeps me awake at night and it’s absolutely feasible to ask parents to consider alterative methods of transport. Failing that they could definitely park several minutes away and do the last few minutes by foot to avoid congestion around schools.”

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