|New Ash Green from the air|
I was two years old when I moved with my parents and baby brother to a large modern built four bedroom off road end of terrace with a garden front and back and a double garage. 'New Ash Green' or 'SPAN Kent' as it was first named, and which sat alongside the ancient village of Ash, had been the realisation of an ideallic suburban dream by Span who's radical building designs were unique and eye catching to say the least.
Populated by '2.4' families with fathers who commuted the 40 minute train ride to London and mothers who stayed at home and raised the kids it was the perfect 1970s set up for families escaping the rat race trying to give their children a better upbringing.
|One of the 'neighbourhood' area plans|
Span had a vision: ‘This Village is planned as a ‘whole’ place created for Twentieth Century living and providing for Twentieth Century people’s needs’. Residents were served by their own purpose built shopping centre which had everything from a post office to a baker and a supermarket. There were schools for every age group, nurseries, a youth club, village hall, a village green called Over Minnis, rugby club, sports fields, play parks and a bus route which took you into the nearby towns. It was a social experiment.
Despite SPAN running into problems in 1969 resulting in fewer than the proposed 2000 houses being built, the village was still a success. It was taken over by Bovis Homes in 1971 though by now New Ash Green was a community thriving. There was a solidarity and the villagers pulled together. And for a long time it served its purpose.
|Part of the shopping centre - radical design|
As a result the place went to rack and ruin. Buildings became dilapidated, the shopkeepers moved out, the vandals moved in, and pretty soon so did trouble kids and drug addicts. Before long it was a no go area and the heart of the community was lost. Whilst businesses do still operate there it is a very far cry from what I remember.
It's been a terrible shame and I've been very sad to see it crumble in the years since I have left the village. Whilst many residents now have cars and drive further afield for shopping there is still a community dependent on the shopping centre. These days the village has lost much of its heart. It is pretty much just a collection of quirky looking retro houses but I still love it and I'm glad I was a part of the experiment.
|Every house faced with a green and pleasant land|