Drivers in coastal town face tickets for leaving engines idling when at a standstill.

Leave your engine idling while at a standstill, and you could land a fine. A local council is to introduce such laws in the seaside town of Shoreham in an attempt to reduce pollution and improve air quality.

From January, traffic wardens there will be able – after a warning – to issue £20 fines to drivers who refuse to switch off their engines. The rules will apply to traffic queues, and also to drivers who leave their engines running while parked to keep themselves warm. West Sussex county council is behind the plan and, if successful, may extend it across the region. Other councils are watching the plan and, if successful, may follow suit.

West Sussex council’s thinking is that keeping the air in Shoreham as clean as it can be will particularly benefit the town’s 20,000 people, many of whom are elderly.

‘We would stress that this is just an investigation at this stage,’ the council said. ‘We hope the vast majority of motorists would be willing to co-operate.’

The council has posted signs at local railway crossings asking drivers to switch off their engines while stationary.

The Daily Mail reports that the council’s plans are seriously flawed. The Automobile Association says that most drivers won’t save by turning their engines off, if it’s for less than a minute. Re-starting a car uses more fuel and causes more pollution than an engine left idling short while. The only exceptions are cars designed to turn off when stationary – such as some Minis, BMWs and Citroens.

And there’s a risk that if everyone switches off in a jam, not every car will be able to re-start quickly. ‘And then there’s gridlock,’ says the AA.