Westminster City Council is about to start issuing penalty charge notices to motorists who do not switch off their engines while stationary, in a bid to cut air pollution.

Leaving a vehicle’s engine running (idling) while stationary for more than a minute is an offence which can result in an on-the-spot fine.

The council has “air marshals” who have been speaking to drivers about how engine idling harms the environment, and regular no idling action days have seen more than 50 local people trained to become “Air Quality Champions”. They have gone on to speak to more than 600 drivers in air pollution hot spots. These efforts will continue, with more workshops organised to highlight air quality issues.

The council says that most drivers get the message and comply, but from 4 February, penalty charge notices (PCNs) will be issued in the borough to repeat offenders who ignore calls to cut their car engines when they are not moving.

Councillor Heather Acton, cabinet member for sustainability and parking, said: “Our residents and visitors are concerned about pollution. Improving air quality is high on the agenda for Westminster City Council. We need to tackle these harmful effects on our health, while also understanding the needs of those who move around central London.

“By speaking to drivers, making them aware of how, by switching their engine off when they are not moving, they can help cut air pollution, we can be more mindful of our impact on the environment and our health. These small steps are essential if we are to move towards a healthier, more liveable city which residents, visitors and workers can enjoy.”

Westminster City Council’s work is being supported by London cabbies who have volunteered for engine idling action days. All new black cabs licensed from 1 January 2018 will have to be zero-emissions capable, while no new diesel taxis will be allowed.

Richard Massett from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said: “London’s taxi drivers are helping to pursue improvements to London’s air quality by welcoming new zero emission taxis and supporting Westminster’s engine idling initiative. Both will help to bring about healthier conditions for all who live, work or visit London.”

The council is also expanding electric vehicle infrastructure in the borough to encourage more people to leave polluting vehicles for electric vehicles. Further measures which will target the most polluting vehicles are also due to be announced.