SPAN’s concept of a balanced, integrated community had begun to evolve even before the withdrawal of Eric Lyons and Partners and the resignations of Leslie Bilsby and Geoffrey Paulson Townsend. It is widely held that the Village was at its most vibrant during the 1970’s as a result of the early residents driven by a desire to uphold the concept and ethos that underpinned SPAN’s vision of New Ash Green ‘the Latter Twentieth Century Village in Kent’.
Despite efforts to rationalise their house building program (see New Ash Green, Neighbourhoods: Millfield zone 9), SPAN were overwhelmed by the poor economic climate of the late 1960’s and the financial ramifications of the G.L.C.’s decision not to take up the four tenant neighbourhoods.
Despite the resistance of those living in neighbouring villages and the less than helpful attitude of local authorities, the progress SPAN made was an achievement in itself. Perhaps SPAN’s greatest achievement was providing an environment that matched the optimism and idealism of its pioneering residents. Physically the village may have subsequently taken a different form to the one conceived by SPAN, but it’s unique management system of Village Association and Residents’ Societies is still in operation today.
Looking back in 1973, Eric Lyons described the high expectations he had for the Shopping Centre, ‘We thought that the place could become a kind of ‘out-of-town’ shopping centre because there is very little good shopping for miles around. So we set out to achieve a wide range of good quality shops’.
After a nine year break, Leslie Bilsby and Geoffrey Paulson Townsend formed SPAN Environments Ltd. As before Lyons, now practicing under the name of Eric Lyons, Cunningham Partnership, was appointed as consultant architects. Construction work was to be carried out by E Gostling (Builders Ltd) formerly known as Building SPAN when working on New Ash Green.
Both Bilsby and Townsend had been previously involved in various development projects independently, with Bilsby living in Paris for a period of time. Eric Lyons, Cunningham Partnership had been designing housing schemes for a number of London boroughs. Other projects included the design of Fieldend-Telford New Town and the new holiday town of Vilamoura in Portugal.
SPAN Environments Ltd. built their first houses in Blackheath in 1978. These new houses included a three storey design at Corner Green. SPAN Environments largest undertaking was Mallard Place, Twickenham. On the six acre site, the 102 dwellings were derived from six house types ranging from a four bedroom house to one bedroom flat. The two and three storey buildings at Mallard Place were integrated with a carefully landscaped environment. The scheme included a swimming pool and private Thames side moorings for residents boats. Mallard Place was completed in 1984 four years after the untimely death of Eric Lyons in 1980.