Hands up those who have been to New Ash Green. It is essentially a village new ‘town’ in Kent that was developed by Span in 1967, one of a number of modernist projects designed by architect Eric Lyons in the south-east.
The concept sought to create a style of community living that saw various related iterations in that era. Housing was divided into 24 areas, deploying cul-de-sacs and gardens with a shopping precinct at its heart. The early homes were modern but many embraced a traditional Kentish style with tiling and weatherboarding. DJ Pete Murray was hired for the big opening. He was one of Radio 1’s original presenters, here pictured in the centre.
Originally Greater London Council agreed to buy 450 homes for rent but the incoming Tory administration cancelled those plans. The project started to founder and in 1971 it was sold to Bovis, who built without any of the aesthetics or lofty aspirations of its designers.
The precinct is a small labyrinth of walkways and curves but has suffered from a lack of investment from an absentee landlord. The Guardian said it feels “like a shotgun marriage between two visions of the future: the same-old-same-old, and what-might-have-been.”
Some of the shopping units look unloved but within their midst lie two pubs. One is a micro, the Vault, that opened just before covid. Tucked away in a corner it had a few well settled drinkers and a range of beers.
My first pick was well on the turn. The owner asked if it was alright and changed it immediately when I said no. It’s replacement, Hophead, was in good condition.
The other is The Badger, which had two handpumps with the badges turned round and a seemingly continuous stream of mums entering with they’d young offspring. Whatpub says it has a restaurant run by a Masterchef semi-finalist but on a weekday afternoon the bar itself felt anything but gastro.
New Ash Green is well worth exploring. Just don’t try to pay with one of these.