Andrew Thomas talks to South Lakeland district councillor Dyan Jones about her love of the Lake District and her desire for everyone to do their best to protect the planet
In February 2019, South Lakeland District Council declared a Climate Emergency and also adopted a climate change policy that set out a strategic approach to reducing the carbon footprint both of the council and of the district as a whole.
The councillor with the task of overseeing the council’s efforts to reduce its own carbon footprint – and to seek to influence others to try to do the same – is Dyan Jones, who lives at Windermere.
Dyan, 58, was born and grew up in Blackburn.
“I was quite creative as a youngster,” said Dyan. “I loved English, writing, reading and art. I studied graphics at college and worked in the graphics department at newspaper offices in Blackburn and Burnley.”
She married husband Steve in 1986 and became a full-time mum after the birth of her children. The couple, who had lived at Baxenden, near Accrington, moved to the Lake District in 1988 for Steve’s work.
She got involved with the Parent Teacher Association at Goodly Dale Primary School at Windermere and as a volunteer teaching assistant there. “Eventually I got a teaching assistant job at the Lakes School and did that for around 15 years,” she said.
She had supported Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron and was elected as a Lib Dem councillor to Windermere Town Council. Then the party asked her to stand as a district councillor. As Dyan put it: “If you want something doing, ask a busy person!”
She was attracted to the Liberal Democrats, she said, because ‘they are a fair and equitable kind of people’. Equity is a phrase she uses a lot during our interview – inequality in society is clearly something she wants to address. “I am left leaning and people orientated. It is not about the business; it is the folk who are doing the business,” she explained.
She was elected to represent Windermere on the district council and at the last election achieved her largest majority so far.
What interests her about politics? “You are elected to make a difference. The significant thing for me is there is a group of people who come together with a shared aim and manifesto. It is being part of a collaborative group for good, which is tackling issues such as housing and jobs – the things that matter to all of us.”
She said she had always appreciated nature and understood that it needed care and attention. She was appointed as the environment portfolio holder and the title was later renamed to Climate Emergency Portfolio holder to reflect the council’s concern over the issue.
South Lakeland District Council became the first district council to declare a Climate Emergency. “When I brought the motion to the council I said when you talk about an emergency you want to do something immediately.
“The declaration is a recognition that we need to pay serious attention to this issue and that we recognise that things have to change. Emergency is an emotive word so it gets attention and you then have to try to transform that into action.”
The council has held consultative meetings about climate change and drawn up an action list. It includes: working with supermarkets and other businesses to discuss how carbon footprints can be reduced; encouraging employees to use sustainable transport; promoting energy efficiency in homes, including the installation of low energy light bulbs; investigating ways to discourage vehicle idling; and designating locations for wildflower meadows and reduced verge cutting.
“The council wants to be a role model. Our message is to reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Dyan. “We want people to reduce waste, think about how they travel from A to B; how much food they eat, how much they throw away and the importance of buying local foods.
“The simple message is for people to think about looking after the planet. To do their best for the future for our children and grandchildren. Be thoughtful about how you care for your surroundings because they are going to be here for a lot longer than you are.”
Dyan’s environmental heroes include Sir David Attenborough and economist Kate Raworth.
Asked to describe herself, Dyan replied; “Generous, kind, reliable - but don’t make me angry!”
And she added: “I love living in the Lake District. I consider myself very fortunate and lucky to do so and that is one of the reasons I want to encourage people to look out for the place.”