The official launch of New Ash Green was held on 21 September 1967. Inaugural speeches were given by Sir Keith Joseph, Ernest Haynes (Chairman of SPAN Kent Ltd) and Leslie Bilsby (Joint Managing Director of SPAN Developments Ltd). On 29 September 1967 the Village Agreement between SPAN Kent Ltd and New Ash Green Village Association Ltd was signed and New Ash Green became a legal entity. At the same time another Deed established Over Minnis Residents Society Ltd as the first neighbourhood. The first residents moved into Over Minnis in November 1967. Over Minnis consisted of 33 houses and three shop units (Nos. 5 to 7). The neighbourhood included ten different house types of varying floor plans from New Ash Green’s ‘K-range’. The ‘K-range’ went from A to N (with variations) e.g. K2A, K2B, K2C. The show houses (Nos. 30 to 33) demonstrated four house types from the ‘K- range: The K2A, K2B, K2D and K2E.
As more people arrived a definite ‘community’ spirit begun to evolve. Many of the early residents were under thirty with young children. They came from a diversity of backgrounds and different parts of the country. Many clubs and societies were formed by these ‘pioneering’ residents. They included a wives group, tennis and football clubs, brownies and guides, cubs and scouts troop and film society.
In May 1968 the first issue of the village journal The Argus was produced. It was edited by a resident of Over Minnis and included news of SPAN’s building progress, details of the activities of the various clubs and societies and a letters page. To commemorate the birth of the first child in New Ash Green in 1968, SPAN planted ‘Richards’ Tree’ (a 25 foot Italian Alder). At the foot of the tree was placed a Portland stone cube with the inscription ‘Richard’s Tree’.
In February 1968 planning permission was relieved for the first 33 shop units, 12 flats and 6 maisonettes. To celebrate the official opening the Shopping Centre, SPAN organised Village Day. Host for the day was Pete Murray, the Radio 1 disc jockey. A no-expense spared event, it included a rodeo show, flying display, Morris dancing, Punch and Judy show, stalls and various sideshows. Two live bands provided the musical entertainment for the evening ‘Dancing in the Streets’ party. It was decided that Village Day should become an annual event and, in various forms, it has continued to the present day.
2017 therefore represents the 50th anniversary of New Ash Green and a summer of activities has been planned by a working party of the Village Association to celebrate this milestone with activities arranged by many different organisations. SPAN has long gone but the Village Association has been fortunate in obtaining funding from the Big Lottery Fund Celebrate programme to help with the events. See the links to the programme for full details.
The celebrations will start with Village Day on 1 July and end on 30 September when a final celebration dance is being planned at the Pavilion on the sports field. Although The Argus ceased regular publication quite a few years ago, a special edition will be published to mark the anniversary. Any updates on the events will be posted as arrangements are finalised.
Acknowledgements to www.span-kent.co.uk for details of the early years of New Ash Green. Much more information about the development of the village is available on that website.