Two government health bodies have suggested that councils should introduce ‘no idling zones’ to improve air quality.

According to Public Health England (PHE) and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the zones should be introduced in areas where “vulnerable” people are collected, such as outside schools and care homes.

The health bodies said that children aged 14 and under and elderly people are more at risk from the effects of air pollution than other age ranges.

PHE said long-term exposure is responsible for 25,000 deaths in England, ‘making air pollution the largest environmental risk in terms of fatalities

Last April, Westminster City Council introduced ‘air force’ officers onto the borough’s streets to fine motorists that leave their engines on.

The report’s other recommendations include introducing clean air zones with charges for the most polluting vehicles, promoting electric vehicles and introducing congestion charge zones.

“Air pollution is a major risk to our health and measures suggested so far have not managed to tackle the problem sufficiently,” said Paul Lincoln, chair of the NICE guideline committee. “This guidance is based upon the best evidence available. It outlines a range of practical steps that local authorities can take, such as the implementation of no-idling zones, to reduce emissions and protect the public.”

The RAC welcomed the report. “No-one should have to suffer dirty air as a result of a driver leaving their engine on unnecessarily,” said RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes. “Sadly, many drivers don’t realise the harm they are causing by doing this.”

Lyes added: “Schools should work closely with local authorities to first encourage parents to switch their engines off. It’s right that those that then persist in leaving them on should be subject to a charge.

“While it is going to take a combination of different actions to rid our towns and cities of dirty air, introducing no-idling zones is one simple step that we can do now that can lead to cleaner air for all of us.”