PLANS to improve York’s air quality by fining people who refuse to switch their car engines off while they are parked have been given the green light.

Senior councillors were asked to approve the anti-idling measures at a meeting on Thursday. Under the plans, drivers who are asked to turn off their vehicles but refuse to do so will be fined £20 and could be prosecuted if they fail to pay.

Signs will also be put up around the city asking people to switch off their engines while they are parked and a campaign to raise awareness will be launched.

Cllr Andrew Waller, speaking at the City of York Council meeting, said: “It’s part of a set of actions that the council has taken to tackle the serious issue of air pollution. Certainly I have observed more engines being switched off at traffic lights.

“It’s not meant to be catching people out, it’s much better if people see the signs.”

Cllr Peter Dew added that the focus would be on changing people’s behaviour rather than dishing out fines. He said: “We are not going to recruit scores more officers to go around knocking on car windows.”

Council officers said idling does not mean drivers waiting at traffic lights, people who keep their car on to stay warm in cold weather or people who leave their engines on while parked on their driveway. And it is not an offence to leave the engine switched on, but it is an offence not to switch a vehicle off when asked. Officers added that electric vehicles will not be fined for idling.

The plans were welcomed by Green councillors Andy D’Agorne and Denise Craghill.

Cllr Craghill said: “Many residents in my ward are concerned about air pollution. It’s certainly very welcome that at long last there’s a plan in place to address anti-idling.

“The objective is to reduce idling rather than increase fines. I am a bit concerned as to whether this is being adequately resourced.”

And Caroline Lewis from Clean Air York added: “We would like to see this far more widely displayed. We feel the signs are easy to miss and too small.”

Signs will be put up at idling hotspots throughout the city and fines will come into force from June.